Four coal miners were killed and two injured on Saturday 14th February in an accident at a mine in central Colombia, one of the country’s worst such incidents in months, an official said. She said an explosion of gases was the likely cause of the accident at the small mine in the province of Boyaca.
Last August, a methane explosion killed eight miners in an illegally operated coal mine in neighbouring Cundinamarca province.
Last February, 40 people were killed in two separate mine explosions – in the northeastern department (province) of Norte de Santander, and in Boyacá, in east-central Colombia.
However, independent sources say the real number of accidents is much higher than the official figures suggest.
“There are an estimated two accidents a day, most of which go unreported for fear that the mine will be shut down, and sources of income will be lost,” especially “in the case of small-scale miners,” said Tatiana Roa, director of the non-governmental organisation Censat – Agua Viva.
On top of the dangerous working conditions, miners in Colombia also lack job stability, with most of them hired under temporary contracts. And in the best of cases, miners only have health coverage during the period they are hired for.
The issue of land appropriation from indigenous people for Colombian mines is also of particular concern.
Colombia is among the world’s top five coal suppliers, and is the second largest supplier to the UK. The UK’s coal imports are some three times greater in volume than the coal extracted from open cast and deep mines in the UK.
Coal imported from Colombia is received at Grangemouth and it is thought that Colombian coal is imported at Hunterston too. UK power companies such as ScottishPower and port operators such as Clydeport and Forth Ports are directly supporting the terrible working conditions that Colombian coal miners have to endure. And what for? So that Scottish homes can boil their kettles, and so that Scottish businesses can leave their office lights on at night.