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Gold mining fire kills at least 27 workers in Peru

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At least 27 workers have died in a fire at a gold mine in a remote area of southern Peru, authorities said Sunday, making it one of the worst mining tragedies in the South American country’s recent history.

Grief-stricken relatives gathered near the mine looking for news of their loved ones.

“Where are you darling, where are you?” cried Marcelina Aguirre Quispe, whose husband was among the victims.

“We know there was a short circuit and from that an explosion. We are very shocked by everything that happened,” said Francisco Idme Mamani, whose 51-year-old brother Frederico also perished.

Police and the public prosecutor’s office confirmed that the fire, which engulfed a tunnel inside the La Esperanza 1 mine in the Arequipa region, was caused by a short circuit.

Public prosecutor Giovanni Matos told channel N television that there were “27 dead inside the mine.”

Local media said earlier that the blaze started after an explosion at the mine in the remote Condesuyos province, a 10-hour drive from the city of Arequipa, the regional capital.

The explosion ignited the wooden supports inside the mine in the town of Yanaquihua.

The victims were 100 meters below ground, local media said.

News of the fire was only published Sunday once police had gathered details of those who died.

Rescue teams were trying to secure the mine before removing the victims’ bodies.

“We have to make the place where the dead are safe so we can enter it and recover the bodies,” said Matos.

There have been no reports of survivors, nor confirmation about how many people were in the mine at the time of the fire.

Yanaquihua mayor James Casquino told the Andina news agency that most of the miners would have died of asphyxiation and burns.

Mining accidents 

The incident is one of the worst mining accidents in recent years in Peru, the largest gold producer in Latin America.

“The interior and defense ministries have been working since this tragedy occurred on the recovery and transport of the bodies,” said the presidency in a tweet.

Family members headed to the nearest police station for information on their relatives.

The mine, operated by Minera Yanaquihua, is a legal enterprise but there are many illegal mines in the region.

The company has been operating mines in Peru for 23 years.

Mining is one of the engines of the Peruvian economy, accounting for more than eight percent of GDP.

Last year, 39 people died in mining-related incidents, according to the mining and energy ministry.

In 2020, four workers died after becoming trapped when a mine in Arequipa collapsed.

Peru is the world’s second-largest producer of silver, copper and zinc, according to official sources.

It is also Latin America’s top producer of zinc, tin, lead and molybdenum.


This story originally appeared on France24

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