The Catalan town of Súria, around 75 kilometres northwest of Barcelona, has declared two days of mourning after it was confirmed that three geologists were killed in an accident at the Cabanasses potash mine on Thursday morning.
One of the victims had been an intern there for just a few days, while another was working at the mine for nearly six months. The third had been there for three years, said a spokesman for ICL Iberia, which runs the mine.
Two had been studying for master’s degrees in engineering at the University Polytechnic of Catalonia (PCU), while the other was doing a doctorate in geology at the University of Barcelona, the establishments said.
The three ICL Iberia workers, all of whom were in their late twenties to early thirties, were trapped in a landslide at around 650 metres below ground level. Officials had initially stated that the accident had occurred at a depth of 900 metres.
No problems were detected at the Súria mine in the last inspection, which took place only three weeks ago.
‘Unfortunately, we can confirm the death of three young people who were working in the mine,’ Catalan leader Pere Aragonès told reporters outside Cabanasses mine in Suria on Thursday.
Rescuers had recovered and identified the bodies of three people who were ‘around 30 years old’, he said, sending his condolences to their families and colleagues.
Despite frantic efforts to reach them, it was hours before rescuers got down to the place where they could confirm their deaths.
Just after midday on Thursday, Aragonès had initially announced the deaths on Twitter saying: ‘We deeply regret the death of the three miners in the accident in Suria mine.’ Several minutes later, however, the tweet was deleted.
Many local and national media outlets also said they had died, citing sources in the emergency services, but police said they could not confirm the reports until ‘they were reached by a doctor’ and their families had been notified.
When the gallery collapsed, all three were carrying out ‘a routine task that they do every day’, mine worker Carlos Arnaldo told reporters at the scene. ‘Sometimes the mine gives you no warning: the roof caves in and nothing can be done,’ he said.
‘This is terrible news,’ tweeted Labour Minister Yolanda Díaz, sending ‘love and solidarity to the families and colleagues of the workers caught up in the collapse at the Suria mine’.
Owned by ICL Iberia, the Spanish arm of Israel’s ICL Group, which specialises in fertilisers and chemicals, the Cabanasses mine had recently passed a security inspection, officials said.
‘The last inspection was just three weeks ago and it was cleared without any sign of irregularities,’ Catalan regional business minister Roger Torrent told reporters at the scene.
ICL Iberia is the only company that produces potassium salts in Spain, handling both the extraction, treatment and marketing, its website says. Based in Suria, it has 1,100 employees.
Two miners died in December 2013 when a gallery collapsed at the same mine, the Catalan press reported at the time, citing an official statement.
The last major mining accident in Spain was two months earlier, in October 2013, when six people were killed and five others injured following a gas leak at a coal mine in the northwest.
It was the worst accident at a Spanish mine since 14 miners were killed in August 1995 during a methane explosion at a coal mine in the northern province of Asturias.
"Visca els miners", el crit que s'ha escoltat al minut de silenci a Súria.— RTVE Notícies (@rtvenoticies) March 10, 2023
💐 L'empresa minera, treballadors i veïns de la localitat minera fan una ofrena de flors en record de les víctimes mortals de l'accident a la mina de potassa | @RTVECatalunya https://t.co/yMUNSNsx4X pic.twitter.com/1uehjBQ57Q
Estem de dol. Lamentem el tràgic accident que aquest matí ha tingut lloc a la mina de Cabanasses.— ICL Iberia (@ICLiberia) March 9, 2023
Traslladem el nostre sincer condol i oferim tot el suport a la família, amics i companys dels tres miners.
Descanseu en pau. pic.twitter.com/i1i9rUzV7B
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