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The Dangers of Mining Call for Better Data, Local Monitoring

Daniel Creed | Specialist for Analytics and Visualization

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Over the last week, groundTruth Global tracked two separate mining accidents that killed five workers in Colombia. On August 29, an artisanal mine on the outskirts of Tarazá was destroyed by a landslide, killing three people and injuring two. One of those killed was a 14-year old boy. On August 30, two miners were trapped and another was killed in Boyacá due to an explosion caused by a buildup of methane gas.

Artisanal and illegal mines are common in Colombia, as are accidents associated with them. Over the years, this has led to increasing numbers of people killed and an increased level of social unrest surrounding such incidents. Authorities do not always enforce safety regulations and when they do, the process is often complicated. In the Tarazá incident, the mine was operating as an artisanal mine, meaning that the operators work independently, without officially being employed by mining companies. The mine was located in a remote area, hours from the nearest village. Safety regulations are hard to impose in these areas because, in many cases, the authorities are simply not aware of the mine’s existence. Monitoring such mines for safety conditions is also difficult because the location is not easily accessible.

In addition to safety regulation enforcement, subsistence miners could benefit from additional alerts stemming from big data. Lax safety regulations may have contributed to a lack of awareness about the buildup of methane gas in the Boyacá incident, but the Tarazá mine was destroyed by a landslide caused by water buildup from recent rainy conditions. Subsistence miners may not be actively aware of the dangers caused by rain measurements and water-logged soil in certain areas. This emphasizes the need and utility of increased monitoring, as well as the ability to get such alerts into the hands of people that need it most.

Mining continues to be a dangerous industry. To monitor such dangers, and to provide risk alerts to local stakeholders, groundTruth Global monitors indicators such as soil moisture, rain, and landslides to provide early warning of dangerous conditions like those faced by miners in Colombia. With our background in the peacebuilding field, groundTruth Global believes that getting alerts such as these into the hands of people that need them most can assist in decision making that can help save lives.