In the early hours of May 6th, a devastating fire broke out at the La Esperanza 1 gold mine in the Arequipa region of southern Peru. The blaze erupted inside a tunnel where workers were on an overnight shift change, claiming the lives of at least 27 people.
According to reports from the Associated Press and other news agencies, the fire broke out in an electrical circuit located 100 meters underground. Local media images show thick black smoke billowing from the site of the incident.
The mine’s operator, Yanacocha mining company, issued a statement confirming that the accident occurred between the night of May 5th and the early hours of May 6th. They also reported that all 175 workers on site at the time of the incident had safely evacuated the mine.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation by authorities. However, local police and prosecutors have revealed that the majority of those who lost their lives died from suffocation and burns.
In response to the tragedy, the regional government of Arequipa issued a statement promising to hold those responsible for the incident accountable. “We will investigate the cause of this tragedy and hold those responsible for any wrongdoing,” the statement read.
Family members and loved ones of the victims gathered outside the mine’s entrance to await news and information from authorities. Some even waited for the bodies of their loved ones to be returned to them.
This latest incident has once again drawn attention to the dangers faced by workers in Peru’s mining industry. While the country is one of the world’s leading gold, silver, and zinc producers, its mining sector is also known for frequent accidents and incidents.
According to data from Peru’s Ministry of Energy and Mines, 39 people died in mining accidents in 2022 alone, and 73 miners lost their lives in a separate incident in 2002. This latest tragedy serves as a somber reminder of the need to prioritize worker safety in this crucial industry.