Relatives wait at the scene of a gold mine collapse near the area of El Saibo, in Riosucio, Caldas province May 13, 2015. | Photo: Reuters

Relatives wait at the scene of a gold mine collapse near the area of El Saibo, in Riosucio, Caldas province May 13, 2015. | Photo: Reuters

(TODAY COLOMBIA) The company that operates the mine is to blame for the Riosucio mining disaster that has trapped 15 people, say officials.

Colombian officials last weekd called for better mining regulations and controls in order to prevent any further tragedies, after a mine collapsed Wednesday morning, which trapped at least 15 miners underground.

The gold mine collapsed in Colombia’s northwestern province of Caldas, trapping the workers inside some 10 to 17 meters below ground, where they remain. Rescue efforts are ongoing with over 50 medics and search-and-rescue personnel trying to free the miners, but officials have warned that the men may already be dead. Firefighters at the scene say they will not be able to reach the miners until at least midday Friday.

The National Mining Agency said the collapse was caused by floods, which were caused by the holes drilled into the earth to extract the minerals. According to some media reports, a local electricity company is partially to blame for the miners being trapped since it did not warn the workers of a power outage, which caused the water pumps in the mine to stop working and caused the flood.

The Colombian ombudsman requested that the company that owns and operates the mine in Riosucio, Caldas be investigated, stating a number of reasons to suspect that the company was operating illegally.

These include: allowing deep excavations even though the practice has been banned in the country because it unnecessarily puts miners’ lives at risk; the presence of fraudulent electrical connections; the absence of an alternative power plant to supply electrical backup; and a lack of social security for employees.

The ombudsman also demanded immediate steps to maximize and ensure effective monitoring of mining activities in the country, with the aim of preventing further catastrophes that could have been avoided.

Illegal mining is a common practice in Colombia, particularly in the last decade, when the price of gold shot up from around US$400 an ounce to nearly US$1,200.

This content was originally published by teleSUR.

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