Colombia launched an emergency plan to control the country’s mines and provide better saftey for workers, RCN Radio reported Thursday.
The new measures include requiring the highest levels of security for workers and plans for detecting and closing illegal mines.
Colombia’s newly appointed director of the Institute of Geology and Mining (Ingeominas) Oscar Paredes Zapata will be heading the new plan to address the crisis in the mining sector.
As part of the plan, there will be a larger budget for inspecting safety standards in mines and there will befines of up to $300,000 for offenders, a number based on 1,000 times the monthly wage of mine a worker. Ingeominas will also inspect at least 450 mines in the next three months.
Those mines operating without the necessary safety precautions, such as inadequate control to prevent collapse, low oxygen levels in the shafts, a high concentration of methane gas, and poor electromechanical equipment will be closed.
In the last few days 14 illegal gold mines have been closed in the Cordoba department.
Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos asked the Minister of Mines and Energy Carlos Rodado to accelerate the emergency plan.
The mines in Colombia are a “time bomb,” Rodado told Caracol TV Thursday as he severely criticized Colombia’s handling of the mining sector in recent decades and said it is time to apply a heavy hand.
The outgoing director of Ingeominas Andres Ruiz, who resigned from his post in late January, said that insufficient funds and the lack of personnel have made monitoring mining in Colombia “literally impossible.”
Family members of five miners who died in an explosion Tuesday said they will sue the state for neglecting to carry out security checks.
Colombia has seen two mine explosions since January 26 when 21 miners died in a mine in the north of the country.