3 Dead in Colombian Mine Collapse

May 2, 2014


Another illegal mine has collapsed, this time in Colombia, and according to the Associated Press (AP) this one has left 3 dead and 15 injured. The mine was a gold mine located in Cauca, a province in southwest Colombia. The collapse occurred just after midnight on Wednesday in a rural area near Santander de Quilichao, roughly 190 miles southwest of the Bogota, the nation's capital.


As of Friday the bodies of three dead miners had been recovered and rescue operations were still being performed by police, military troops, civil defense and the Red Cross. Surviving miners said there were approximately 15 people still missing although the exact number has not been verified.


It can be difficult rescuing trapped miners who are operating at a closed mine. Once the men are brought to the surface they are often arrested for illegal mining and many prefer to stay trapped until the rescue teams leave, and then attempt to escape on their own. The same problem has happened in parts of South Africa recently where miners at closed gold and diamond mines refused the assistance of relief workers for fear of being imprisoned.


In Colombia, illegal mining is widespread and is often operated by criminal organizations involved in narcotic trafficking who use the mining profits as a front for their illegal activities and as a means for laundering their drug money. Only four weeks ago four people were killed after inhaling noxious gases following an explosion at a mine in Antioquia province that was operating illegally.


The collapse in Cauca occurred when miners using excavation machinery to create massive holes to extract gold accidentally caused one hole to cave in. When a mine is operating illegally there is less oversight and more chance for accidents. Miners working at a closed mine often do not follow safety procedures, rarely have first aid supplies on hand and do not have access to mining equipment that can indicate dangerous conditions.