The families of 10 presumably deceased miners who have been trapped in a flooded Coahuila coal mine since August 3 have reluctantly accepted a recovery mission that could take 11 months or even longer to execute.
Relatives last week rejected a plan to build a slanted tunnel into the El Pinabete mine via an open pit, but Civil Protection chief Laura Velázquez said Monday that they had agreed to the proposal, which will be carried out by the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE).
“We reached an agreement today, … the open pit will be excavated. We’ll start now, as soon as we can,” she said at the mine site, located in the municipality of Sabinas.
“I’ve just had a phone call with [CFE chief Manuel] Bartlett. We’re a couple of days away from starting this large project,” Velázquez said.
The Civil Protection chief predicted it would take at least six months to build a tunnel into the galerías, or horizontal passages, of the mine.
Hilda Alvarado, the wife of one of the trapped miners, told the newspaper El Universal that authorities left the families with no other option but to accept the open pit tunnel plan. She said the families were told that it could take up to two years to extract all the water from the mine, which flooded when excavation work caused a tunnel wall to collapse, allowing water to flow in from abandoned adjacent mines.
Alvarado complained that the authorities didn’t accept any outside help, although the federal government did seek advice from a United States company and a German firm. “It hurts so much, … it’s very difficult,” she said of the presumed death of the miners, who have now been underground for 27 days.
Velázquez — who has faced pressure to resign due to the failure to date to rescue the miners or recover their bodies — also said Monday that a memorial to the miners will be erected at the mine site after the recovery mission has concluded. She also said that the families will receive an unspecified amount of monetary compensation from the government.
An Associated Press report published Sunday said there was evidence that the government has “driven the revival of the dangerous, primitive mines that continue claiming lives” because President López Obrador enacted a plan two years ago to revive coal-fired power plants in northern Mexico and give preference to buying coal from the smallest mines.
Alvarado told El Universal that she wouldn’t accept any compensation until she has her husband back. “One has to think about the [miners’] children,” she added. “A lot have young children who are studying.”
In an interview with the newspaper Milenio, two sisters of trapped miners complained that the authorities only consulted with the wives of the men about the recovery and compensation plan and didn’t consider other family members such as siblings and parents.
“They spoke with the wives. [They said] they had reached an agreement, but they didn’t let any direct family member enter [the discussions],” Magdalena Montelongo said.