Miner Fabio Cáceres García died Tuesday as a result of an explosion of methane and coal dust in El Zulia in eastern Colombia, while 14 other workers remained trapped, it was reported.
Cáceres García had been the first to be rescued from inside the coal mine. He had suffered third-degree burns in most of his body.
Colombia's National Mining Agency explained that on Monday morning occurred in La Mestiza an explosion of methane and coal dust, which left a preliminary report of 15 workers affected, 14 of them missing.
The Governor's Office of Norte de Santander regrets the death of Fabio Cáceres García, a victim of the accident in the El Mestizo mine in the municipality of El Zulia, the regional government said.
Cáceres García had been rescued alive and taken to a hospital in Cúcuta, the capital of Norte de Santander, where he later died. La Mestiza, located in El Zulia, is a 90-minute drive from Cúcuta.
The situation today is that everything that has to do with the structure of the access tunnel is being stabilized and we are also permanently monitoring all methane gas concentrations, said the ANM's Vice President of Mining Follow-up, Control, and Safety, Gustavo Raad on Tuesday. The ANM also reported the explosion was so strong that the fire expanded 15 meters outside the mine shaft. A worker outside the mine was hit by the blast wave and is recovering from several burns in a local hospital, it was reported.
The blast caused the collapse of the entire main entrance slope and trapped the workers. It also released high concentrations of carbon monoxide that make it more difficult to access the site for the rescue of the trapped miners, the ANM added.
Due to the collapse of the main access, rescue activities are focused on ventilation. Unfortunately it has not been possible to control the concentrations of methane gas, Raad explained. The ANM is to launch a probe into the causes of the explosion, he added.
According to Catalina Gheorghe, who is leading the ANM search operation, it is a very difficult rescue and it will surely take several more days.
Local authorities said the mine was operating legally and belongs to the Carbomax complex in the border department of Norte de Santander.
On May 5, a Venezuelan and a Colombian miner were killed by a methane gas explosion in a mine in the department of Boyacá, in central Colombia. Mining and oil are the main export products of Colombia, Latin America's fourth-largest economy, which last year recorded 148 deaths in mining accidents.