Three workers killed in Spanish potash mine collapse
SURIA, Spain, March 9 (Reuters) - Rescue workers in northeastern Spain pulled out the bodies of three dead geologists from a collapsed tunnel hundreds of metres (yards) underground at one of Western Europe's largest potash mines, Catalonian regional leader Pere Aragones said.
Two of the victims were students, one at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC), where a minute of silence was observed on Thursday afternoon, and the other at University of Barcelona, UPC said on its website.
One of them had started internship at the mine just six days earlier, according to Patricio Chacana, head of the local unit of Tel Aviv-based ICL Group Ltd, whose subsidiary Iberpotash operates the mine.
"We are in profound mourning for the death of three of our comrades," he told reporters, adding that technicians had reviewed the structural integrity of 10 reference points that morning, as they do every day and the company would investigate what had caused the collapse.
The incident at the mine in the town of Suria, about 80 km (50 miles) north of Barcelona, occurred just before 9 a.m. (0800 GMT). The remaining workers at the mine were evacuated, officials said.
Firefighters had erected a large tent outside the mine, while the company's flag was flying at half staff even before authorities confirmed the deaths, first announced by the regional union USOC.
"Unfortunately, we can confirm the deaths of three people who were working in the mine ... their bodies have been recovered and identified," Aragones told reporters in Suria.
Catalonia's business department top official, Roger Torrent, said the mine had passed a safety inspection in February.
In December 2013, Iberpotash said two of its workers died after a mine collapse in Suria.
Local media reported that a worker had been struck by a rock and died in June 2020 at the company's Vilafruns mine in Barcelona province. Three weeks later, a miner was killed in a similar accident. The Vilafruns mine was shut down that year.
Potash is used as a fertilizer in agriculture and as a raw material in industries such as pharmaceutical, explosives, glassmaking and chemicals.
Potash prices have soared in the past year after the European Union sanctioned major supplier Belarus over its support for Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
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