Interpol has issued a Red Notice for the owners and operator of a Coahuila coal mine where 10 miners became trapped on August 3.
Authorities have not yet been able to recover the bodies of the presumably deceased miners, who were trapped in the El Pinabete mine when excavation work caused a tunnel wall to collapse, allowing water to flow in from abandoned adjacent mines.
The federal Attorney General’s Office (FGR) said Monday that Interpol had issued a Red Notice for two owners of the company El Pinabete and the operator of the mine, located in the municipality of Sabinas. The three men are accused of “illicit exploitation of an asset that belongs to the nation” and the FGR has obtained warrants for their arrest.
According to Interpol, a Red Notice is “a request to law enforcement worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition, surrender or similar legal action.”
Media reports have identified the mine owners as Luis Rafael García Luna Acuña and Arnulfo Garza Cárdenas and the operator as Cristian Solís Arriaga. Solís is registered with the Mexican Social Security Institute as the employer of the miners, the Labor Ministry (STPS) said Monday.
The FGR said in a statement that it began a criminal investigation into the mine disaster shortly after it occurred, noting that it has interviewed other miners – including some that managed to escape the mine on the day it was flooded – and “persons considered as probable culprits.”
Miners have denounced the poor safety conditions under which they worked at the mine, which opened earlier this year. The FGR also said that the El Pinabete offices were searched and that documents and computers were seized.
“Once all the evidence was gathered a hearing was requested to formulate an accusation against Cristian “S”, the person that was operating the asset and Arnulfo “G” y Luis “G,” who are the owners of the mining company El Pinabete,” the FGR said.
It said that none of the three men showed up at the hearing and that the prosecutors subsequently obtained warrants for their arrest. In addition to the Interpol Red Notice for the three men, the FGR noted there is a “migration alert” with the National Immigration Institute, a measure aimed at preventing their departure from Mexico.
The FGR also noted that Solís, the mine operator, filed a request for protection against arrest and that a judge ruled that a security amount of 500,000 pesos (about US $25,000) must be paid in order for the requested court order to be issued. However, the money hasn’t been paid, and the warrant for his arrest therefore remains valid, the Attorney General’s Office said.
The mine owners and operator face prison sentences of up to 12 years if convicted of exploiting a national asset – the coal mine – without having obtained prior authorization or without having signed a contract with the relevant authority. The FGR said in a September 4 statement that it had been confirmed that the owners “illegally permitted” the exploitation of the El Pinabete coal mine.
According to the STPS, the company Río Sabinas was granted a concession to operate the mine and it was later transferred to the El Pinabete company. However, the ministry also said that the mine was operating without all the required federal and municipal permits.