Fire outbreak at gold mine kills at least 27 in Peru

View of La Esperanza mine, Arequipa region, 7 May 23

At least 27 people have died in a gold mine fire in Peru, in the worst mining accident in the country in decades.

The mine company, Yanaquihua, said 175 miners were rescued. It is a small mine in the Arequipa region, in the south.

An electrical short-circuit is thought to have sparked the fire. Officials said the miners were working about 100m (330ft) below the surface when the blaze broke out.

Images from local media showed flames and smoke erupting from the hillside.

According to the Peruvian news website, the fire was fuelled by La Esperanza gold mine’s timber tunnel supports, many of them soaked in oil.

Yanaquihua said it was carrying out an urgent investigation and “at this very sad time we are prioritising help for the bereaved and the rescued miners”.

In a statement, the regional government said the closest police station was some 90 minutes away from the remote site, and several hours from the closest city, complicating the emergency response.

Peruvian newspaper La República reports that relatives of the missing miners arrived at the scene on Sunday morning, but were denied access to the site.

Miners' relatives at La Esperanza mine, 7 May 23

Peru is one of the world’s largest gold producers, mining more than 100 tonnes a year – or about 4% of the entire world’s annual supply.

While Saturday’s fire is believed to be the worst disaster in years, dozens of deaths a year are not uncommon in the country’s mining industry, usually spread over many smaller incidents.

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