An explosion at the La Mestiza coal mine in Colombia has left nine miners dead and six others trapped underground, as per the country’s National Mining Agency (ANM).

The ill-fated miner is located near the town of El Zulia in the northeastern part of Colombia.

The explosion, which was triggered by an accumulation of gas and subsequent fire and collapse of a tunnel, took place on 30 May 2022. Since then, efforts have been taking place to retrieve the trapped coal miners.

Nearly 70 search and rescue personnel were deployed at the La Mestiza coal mine site. The personnel are from ANM, the local and regional police, the Red Cross, as well as the army.

The ANM said that the explosion at the underground operation resulted from high methane concentrations. The agency added that the flame and pressure of the gas in combination with coal dust led to a landslide and high concentrations of carbon monoxide, which made it difficult for the workers to escape.

The rescue teams are said to have reinstalled the ventilation system of the La Mestiza coal mine alongside additional blowers and extractor fans.

However, the emergency teams said that the rescue operation is slow as well as risky because the area has an average inclination of 70°. This leaves it prone to water leaks and landslides, while there is coal dust in all places.

Unlike several other mines in Colombia, La Mestiza was operating legally. The coal mine was closed last year due to a high concentration of gases, but was approved to reopen last month, as per regional mining secretary Jhon Olivares.

A preliminary report of the explosion suggested that 15 workers were affected. One of them who was on the surface passed away in the clinic following burns on 85% of the body surface.

The remaining 14 were missing as per the preliminary report released a few hours after the explosion.