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June 17 (Reuters) - An explosion overnight in a Colombian coal mine trapped 72 miners and authorities believe they were all killed, in one of the worst accidents since the world's No. 5 coal exporter began expanding the industry a decade ago.
The gas explosion occurred on Thursday just after midnight at the San Fernando mine in the town of Amaga in the northwestern Antioquia province, far from the coal operations run by large companies such as Drummond and Glencore.
Authorities said 16 bodies have already been recovered.
Coal mining is one of the world's most dangerous professions. Explosions and mine collapses are common, especially in China where hundreds die every year in coal mine accidents.
Colombians choose a new president on Sunday, and the accident may increase pressure on the next government to improve safety in the mining industry, which is growing rapidly as the country's guerrilla conflict dies down.
An accident that killed 29 in West Virginia this year triggered a crack-down by U.S. authorities on faulty working conditions in U.S. mines. Some U.S. lawmakers are also calling for more regulation of the industry.
Here are some of the worst mining accidents in recent history:
WORST EVER: China holds the record for the largest number of people killed in a single mining disaster. On April 26, 1942, 1,572 people were killed in an explosion at Honkeiko coal mine.
SOME RECENT MAJOR MINING DISASTERS:
* April 2010 - USA - An explosion killed 29 miners in West Virginia in the deadliest U.S. mine disaster since 1984.
* February 2005 - CHINA - A gas explosion at the Sunjiawan colliery of state-owned Fuxin Coal Industry Group kills 214.
* November 2005 - CHINA - A gas explosion kills 169 people at state-owned Dongfeng coal mine in Heilongjiang province.
* September 2006 - INDIA - Fifty miners are killed after the roof of a coal mine collapses following an explosion in the eastern state of Jharkhand.
* September 2006 - KAZAKHSTAN - At least 41 people are killed after an underground explosion at Mittal's Lenin mine.
* March 2007 - RUSSIA - Blast rips through Siberian coal mine, killing at least 110 people.
* September 2007 - CHINA - Coal mine shaft floods in the eastern province of Shandong, killing 181 miners.
* September 2008 - CHINA - A mudslide caused by the collapse of a mine waste reservoir in northern China kills 254.
* November 2009 - CHINA - A gas explosion at a coal mine in northeast China kills 104.
* March 2010 - SIERRA LEONE - At least 200 people are killed when a trench collapses at a gold mine in Sierra Leone.
Writing by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit, Frank Jack Daniel in Caracas; Editing by Lisa Shumaker
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