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Peru's worst mining accident in decades leaves 27 dead

This weekend’s fire is thought to be one of the worst mining disasters the country has seen in years

Mining in Peru
Mining in Peru | Shutterstock

May 9, 2023 9:36pm

Updated: May 9, 2023 9:36pm

At least 27 people died after a fire broke out in a gold mine in southern Peru during an overnight shift on Friday, marking the worst mining accident the country has seen in decades, authorities said. 

The incident took place about 330 feet (100 meters) below the surface between late Friday and the early hours of Saturday in the mine in Peru’s Arequipa region. While 175 workers were safely evacuated, 27 others died in the fire, said the Yanaquihua mining company. 

The bodies of the workers have since been recovered, said Yanaquihua Mayor James Casquino. The bodies were taken to a morgue in Arequipa, the region’s capital. 

The cause of the fire is under investigation. However, preliminary investigations indicate that the fire might have started after a short circuit caused an explosion and the subsequent fire. The fire was then fueled by the gold mine’s timber tunnel supports, which are sometimes soaked in oil. 

“During the investigation, the Prosecutor’s Office will determine the cause of the tragic event and the responsibilities of those involved,” read a statement by the Public Ministry of Arequipa’s Fiscal District. 

The emergency response to the situation was delayed, given that the nearest police station is located 90 minutes away from the mining complex, according to the regional government. 

This weekend’s fire is thought to be one of the worst mining disasters the country has seen in years. While the industry does see a lot of casualties, they are usually smaller incidents. Last year, 39 people died in mining-related incidents in Peru, according to data from the Mining and Energy Ministry. 

Peru is one of the world’s largest producers of gold, providing about 4% of the entire world’s annual supply of gold. Mining account for eight percent of the Peruvian GDP.