The northwest Colombian state of Antioquia called for the closure of 64 coal mines over their allegedly high risk for accidents. Locals go as far as saying this could starve the communities around the mines as there are no jobs.
At a meeting in Medellin Monday, the findings of a year-long university and state investigation into coal mines in the Sinifana valley in southwestern Antioquia were discussed, and 150 high risk sites were identified.
Antioquia Mining Secretary Claudia Cadavid stated that of these 150, 49 sites were currently inactive, and would remain so until appropriate safety measures had been taken.
State, supported by university, calls for closing mines
Another 64 mines were found to be at high risk and the committee, comprised of state officials and investigators from the local EAFIT University, called for their immediate closure.
“To be categorized as high risk, the EAFIT study assesses seven important risk variables. The most significant are floods, fires and landslides. The study concludes that those found to be at high risk must be immediately closed,” confirmed Cadavid at the meeting in Medellin.
A further 37 mines were flagged as potentially unsafe, and the committee called for immediate changes to the sites, to ensure the protection of those working there.
The decision comes after a spate of mine accidents in the Sinifana valley in the last month, leaving 12 dead and various with life changing injuries.
The worse tragedy that occurred in this region was in June 2010 when 73 workers from Carbones San Fernando, the most technologically advanced mine in the area, died in an underground explosion.
Miners protest closures
The news of the upcoming closures has not been met with support from the local mining communities.
In response to the closures of 18 mines in Amaga, the area where the tragedy took place in La Cancha on October 31, more than 2,000 announced plans for marches and demonstrations to protest the loss of jobs in the area.
The protests, which are set to begin on Wednesday, will include disgruntled miners from the towns of Fredonia, Amaga, Angelopolis, Venice and Titiribi in the Sinifana valley.
Local miners claim that the mine closures will bring poverty to the area, which homes hundreds of families who rely on mining incomes to put food on the table.
Miners’ unions claim that 1200 families would be affected by the closures of the 64 mines in Antioquia.
“We disagree with the closure of our mines. It is unfortunate that a tragedy occurred the inside one of our mines, a painful case, but we believe that the solution is not to close the mines for those that we lost,” said Byron Castrillon, a member of the mining union in an interview with Caracol Radio.
“There are more than 500 families here, and there is no food on the table. There is nothing to look at in the houses. The children are suffering from physical hunger. Currently the outlook is very bleak for our communities,” continued Castrillon.
Miners’ representatives have called for immediate meetings with the Ministry of Mining to resolve the issue and re-start work in the area.
“We would prefer to die working that see our children and relatives die of hunger. It is better to die inside of a mine getting our daily bread for our people,” said Castrillon.
Government response to protests
The Antioquia mining secretary stated that while ensuring that safe working conditions were provided for workers, and unsafe sites were closed, that the social repercussions of taking work away from these rural areas could not be ignored.
The department of social security announced that it would create 224 jobs in the affected Amaga area to soften the blow that the mine closures has had on the area.
- Accidente en Mina de Venecia, Antioquia, dejó seis heridos (El Pais)
- Actividad minera en la Cuenca La Sinifaná es de alto riesgo (Antioquia State government)
- Por alto riesgo, cierran otras 64 minas carboníferas en Antioquia (Caracol Radio)
- Unas 1.200 familias se quedarían sin trabajo por cierre de 64 minas en Antioquia (Blu Radio)
- Más de 2.000 personas protestarán en Antioquia por cierre de minas (El Espectador)