SURIA, Spain (AP) — Three workers died in a tunnel collapse deep inside a potash mine in northeastern Spain on Thursday.
The collapse occurred inside the Cabanasses de Súria mine just before 9 a.m., at a depth of 900 meters (nearly 3,000 feet), local police and firefighters confirmed. Efforts are ongoing to recover the bodies, they said. The mine is located around 80 kilometers (50 miles) northwest of Barcelona.
Two of the dead were masters students at Polytechnic University of Catalonia's Manresa engineering school, the institution said in a statement. A minute's silence was held in their memory on Thursday afternoon.
One of the students was an intern at ICL Iberia, the Spanish subsidiary of Tel Aviv-based ICL Group, which owns the mine. ICL Group didn't immediately comment on the incident. Two workers died in similar circumstances at the same mine a decade ago.
Catalan regional president Pere Aragonès offered his condolences to the families affected, describing the incident as a “tragic accident.” The labor department of the regional government announced an investigation into the accident, and a judicial probe was also opened.
Catalonia’s regional head of business, Roger Torrent, said that the mine had passed regular safety inspections. “The checks were regular. The last one was three weeks ago,” Torrent said.
Around 20,000 people work in Spain’s mining sector, according to Energy Ministry statistics, a figure that has halved in the past two decades.
Between 2016 and 2021, the last year for which statistics were available, an average of four workers have died annually in Spain’s mining sector.