Colombian security forces and other officials closed 18 more illegal gold mines in the government’s campaign to regulate mining and environmental hazards to workers, the Environment Ministry said Friday.
It said the closures raised to 48 the number of illegal mines that have been shut down since President Juan Manuel Santos took office in August.
A statement posted on the ministry’s website said officials are reviewing the legality of at least 571 mines across the country.
The Environment Ministry said the latest operation involved at least 233 police officers, soldiers, mining regulators and environmental officials moving to shutter 18 mines in the departments of Antioquia and Cordoba in northwestern Colombia.
South America’s attention has been drawn to problems in mines since 33 miners were trapped in a Chilean mine by a rock collapse in early August. They spent more than two months underground, until they were brought to the surface last week in a rescue operation that was broadcast around the globe.
In Colombia, a gas explosion on June 16 killed 73 miners in the San Fernando coal mine in the municipality of Amaga in Antioquia, about 150 miles (240 kilometers) northwest of Bogota.
That was Colombia’s worst mining tragedy since 1977, when 85 workers died in another coal mine in Amaga when a gas buildup exploded. (Associated Press)