BOGOTA (Reuters) - Rescue workers were trying to reach at least 15 miners trapped underground in a gold mine in northwestern Colombia after it suddenly flooded, a government emergency response unit said on Wednesday.
“Search and rescue operations are under way. Up to now we have 15 people reported trapped in the mine,” the National Unit for Management of Risk and Disasters said in a statement, adding the total number of workers could turn out to be higher.
The mine, which is in Riosucio in Caldas province around 220 km (136 miles) northwest of the capital, Bogota, has been operating legally, the government’s mining agency confirmed.
The National Mining Agency said it was checking which company owns the mine where the accident occurred because there are several projects in the area.
Most of Colombia’s annual gold production of around 55 tonnes a year is produced by informal or illegal miners working in precarious conditions, leading to frequent accidents.
Last year alone, 87 mine accidents claimed the lives of 120 people, according to government figures. In 2010, 73 people were killed in an explosion at a legally operated coal mine in Antioquia province.
Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Peter Murphy; Editing by Jonathan Oatis