Authorities in Peru have reported that, at least 27 workers have been killed in a fire at a remote gold mine in southern part of the country in one of the worst mining accidents in the country’s recent history.
Officials told local media on Sunday (May 7) that the miners were working about 100m (330 feet) below the surface when the accident occurred.
They say preliminary investigations indicated that an explosion might have been set off by a short circuit in a part of the mine, on Saturday (May 6), that quickly engulf one of the tunnels.
Images on social media showed flames and smoke erupting from the hillside at, La Esperanza, a mine in the Arequipa region.
The Yanaquihua mining company said in a statement that a total of 175 workers had been safely evacuated after the accident, which happened late Friday or early Saturday.
Describing the accident as “very sad”, the company said it is carrying out an urgent investigation noting that “we are prioritising help for the bereaved and the rescued miners”.
In a statement, the regional government said the closest police station was some 90 minutes away from the remote site, and several hours from the closest city, complicating the emergency response.
According to reports, relatives of the victims were brought by buses to the mine in Yanaquihua, in the Arequipa region, where they were briefed by security agents.
AN OFFICIAL INVESTIGATION LAUNCHED
The Public Ministry of Arequipa’s Fiscal District said investigators are working to clarify what happened.
“During the investigation, the Prosecutor’s Office will determine the cause of the tragic event and the responsibilities of those involved,” its statement said.
Peru is one of the world’s largest gold producers, mining more than 100 tonnes a year – or about 4 per cent of the entire world’s annual supply.
While Saturday’s fire is believed to be the worst disaster in years, dozens of deaths a year are not uncommon in the country’s mining industry – usually spread over many smaller incidents.