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The president with families of the victims on Monday at the National Palace. The president with families of the victims on Monday at the National Palace.

Government offers cash, monument to families of lost miners

Relatives will decide whether to proceed with four-year excavation plan or install a monument

The federal government is offering compensation of 3.7 million pesos (US $170,306) per family to the relatives of 65 coal miners who died in a 2006 explosion in Coahuila. Authorities have also offered to place a monument at the accident site.  

After a two-hour meeting Monday at the National Palace between relatives of the victims and President López Obrador, Labor Minister Luisa María Alcalde explained that family members will decide whether the government should complete the expensive task of recovering 63 bodies from the collapsed Pasta de Conchos mine.

The excavation will cost the federal government an estimated 1.7 billion pesos and take four years.

It is not an either/or situation, Alcalde emphasized, because the families will receive the compensation whether the bodies are retrieved or not. They have until September 14 to make a decision whether the undertaking justifies the cost and time.

The families were presented with the information regarding the rescue, Alcalde said, and they will decide if retrieving the bodies should proceed. The alternative, the minister said, is a monument.

López Obrador promised last year to exhume the bodies of the miners after relatives of the deceased had argued for years that efforts be made to do so. The mine owner, Grupo México, has insisted that conditions are too dangerous to make the attempt.

The decision to retrieve the bodies came after Mexican and foreign experts determined that “the rescue process is theoretically and technically feasible,” the federal government announced in a February 19, 2020 communiqué. 

Grupo México will also hand over the title to the mine, located in San Juan de Sabinas, Coahuila, to the federal government at President López Obrador’s request, and excavation is set to begin in October, the government said.

The National Human Rights Commission conducted an investigation at the site following the accident and determined that government officials had allowed the mine to operate under unsafe conditions.

Family members of the miners suspected that Grupo México did not want to continue the search at the time of the accident because poor and dangerous working conditions would be revealed, a suspicion supported by the  Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

Grupo México’s internal documents revealed it had been operating the Pasta de Conchos mine under less than optimal safety conditions for years, yet no one has been held legally responsible for the deaths of the 65 miners.

Aida Briseño, a family member of one of the miners, left Monday’s meeting with the president feeling happy and calm, she said, “because at last we were heard. It is historical, I’m very proud that he received us.”

Source: Milenio (sp)

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