Friday, February 23, 2024

Mexico seeks advice from US, German companies to rescue trapped miners

The federal government will ask two foreign companies for advice about how to go about rescuing 10 miners who have been trapped in a flooded coal mine in Coahuila since August 3.

National Civil Protection chief Laura Velázquez said Tuesday that the government will seek help from a German firm and another in the United States, neither of which she named.

“We’ll speak with them today to find out who can give us the best opinion, … taking the conditions of this mine into account. They’re two companies that will give us an opinion to determine the most precise [rescue] actions,” Velázquez told President López Obrador’s morning news conference.

The Civil Protection chief noted that the request for international help came from the families of the trapped miners, who are camped out at the flooded El Pinabete mine in the municipality of Sabinas.

“We’re attending to their basic needs so that their stay at the mine and their wait are a little calmer,” Velázquez added.

The 10 miners became trapped when the mine flooded after excavation work caused a tunnel wall to collapse 13 days ago. Authorities have used pumps to extract water, but levels in three wells rose suddenly on Sunday as water from an abandoned adjacent mine called Las Conchas apparently leaked – or gushed – into the El Pinabete mine.

The abrupt increase in the water levels hampered rescue efforts, which authorities say require low levels to proceed safely. Heavy rain fell at the mine site on Monday, further complicating the rescue work.

The El Pinabete mine is just 400 meters from the Sabinas River in an area of subterranean springs. With the rainy season underway, there is a risk that more water will enter the mine via the water table, the newspaper Reforma reported.

Velázquez announced Monday that concrete will be injected into the mine to seal off inundated wells from the adjacent mine and thus prevent more water flowing into El Pinabete, but that work hasn’t yet begun. The official said she will provide additional information about the plan on Wednesday.

For his part, López Obrador called on the federal Attorney General’s Office (FGR) to investigate a concession granted for the mine during the 2000-2006 government led by former president Vicente Fox.

“The concession for this mine was issued by Fox and … in a strict sense, the concession shouldn’t have been granted. How can a concession be granted next to a flooded, canceled mine? The FGR has to do an investigation about this regrettable incident,” he said.

The president highlighted that his administration hasn’t granted a single mining concession since it took office in late 2018. Past “neoliberal governments,” in contrast, issued permits for mines totaling 120 million hectares, he said.

It is a claim the president has made several times but the figures don’t match with those of the Ministry of Economy, which says mining concessions cover 16.84 million hectares of Mexico’s territory.

With reports from Reforma 

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