A mining accident in a village near Timbiqui, in the southwestern state of Cauca has killed seven people, despite initial reports that there were 17 people missing after the accident, local media reports.
The bodies were rescued by the Colombian Navy and relief organizations, at an open pit gold mine in operation for over 40 years, according to Cali-based newspaper El Pais. Local functionaries deny that the mine was of an illegal character, instead mentioning the history of the mine and the fact that there have never been so many deaths at one time, “several people have died, but never so many at one time. It was always one or two, maximum,” Secretary of Timbiqui’s Government Nicolas Vente told El Pais. A local leader told El Pais that, “it’s an open pit mine, many families live on mining in Timbiqui, and its a job that has been passed down from generation to generation. It’s totally artesenal, the people work [at the mine] with picks and shovels making holes [that facilitate the mining], the old way.” Initial reports detail that as hundreds of people were finishing their shift, tons of rock and clay fell on top of them, trapping 17, according to Colombia’s El Tiempo newspaper.
The mine is located on Colombia’s poverty-stricken Pacific coast, the difficult terrain hampering rescue efforts, as it requires a 45 minute trip up a river from the principal town of Timbiqui, since no roads lead to the small village.