Colombia’s Mining Minister Hernan Martinez says he believes that the San Fernando coal mine, in which a massive explosion killed at least eighteen people and trapped many more in Antioquia at midnight Wednesday, did not fulfill safety requirements.
Speaking to Caracol Radio on Friday Martinez said that the government’s Institute for Geology and Mining (Ingeominas) would be conducting a full investigation into the suspected shortfalls in safety regulations at the mine in Amaga, located in central Antioquia.
According to initial reports, the coal mine was not equipped with gas detectors or gas extractor fans.
Representatives of Ingeominas said that if the mine is found to have not fulfilled safety requirements “the owners of the mine will respond to the families of the victims.”
The Institute’s director, Mario Ballesteros, said that reforms would have to be made to Colombia’s mining industry, admitting that a large number of mines exist illegally throughout the country, without mining permits.
Emergency services remain at the San Fernando mine, working to rescue any potential survivors.
On Thursday night two more bodies were evacuated from the site, taking the total of confirmed deaths to eighteen. Reports vary as to how many more people remain trapped within the mine – but are thought to number between 50 and 70.
A high concentration of methane gas and high temperatures mean that rescue work is difficult and expected to take several more days.
The director of Colombia’s National Disaster and Emergency center, Luz Amanda Pulido, said the survival chances of the miners who remain trapped are minimal.
The explosion occurred during a shift change, which likely increased the number of miners hurt in the accident, Pulido said.
Around 600 miners work in the San Fernando mine, which saw a similar incident a year and a half ago, in which five people were trapped, one of whom died.
During a press conference on Thursday Uribe expressed his “pain” over the tragic accident and said “my soul is transported to Amaga.”