Authorities on Monday will use an underwater drone to try to locate 10 miners who remain trapped in a flooded Coahuila coal mine, while an attempt to rescue the men could begin later this week.
The miners have been trapped in the El Pinabete mine in the municipality of Sabinas since last Wednesday. Authorities haven’t established whether they are still alive.
National Civil Protection chief Laura Velázquez told President López Obrador’s morning morning press conference that the navy has provided an underwater drone that will be used to try to locate the trapped men.
The drone, which will be operated by specialized personnel, is equipped with a light and high resolution camera and can film at depths of up to 250 meters, she said. Its use will avoid putting rescuers’ lives at risk while the mine remains flooded.
Authorities are using 25 pumps to remove water from the mine, which flooded when excavation work caused a tunnel wall to collapse. Velázquez said that over 70,000 cubic meters of water have been extracted since last Wednesday. However, three mine wells remain flooded – one with more than 20 meters of water and two with almost that amount, while a relief well is currently filled with over 26 meters of water.
One of five miners who managed to escape the flooded mine said in a radio interview that there was still some hope for the trapped men. “The hope is that there’s a little bubble of air,” Fernando Pompa said.
Defense Minister Luis Cresencio Sandoval said Monday that two boreholes have been drilled to stop more water from entering the part of the mine where the miners are believed to be trapped. A total of 10 boreholes will be drilled, he said. Information presented by the army chief showed that flooding needs to decline to just 1.5 meters before rescuers can safely enter the mine. A rescue attempt via Pozo 3 (Well 3) could commence in the middle of the week, Sandoval indicated.
Over 550 people are involved in the efforts to locate and rescue the trapped miners, including personnel from the army, National Guard, Federal Electricity Commission and National Water Commission. López Obrador on Sunday visited the mine, where he spoke with officials involved in the rescue efforts. He spent just three minutes speaking to the families of the trapped miners, the newspaper Reforma reported, adding that he told them that rescuing the men is the current priority and that action against the owners of the mine will be taken later.
The mine began operations in January 2022 and hadn’t had any incidents before last week, according to the federal Labor Ministry. Sabinas, the municipality where the mine is located, borders San Juan de Sabinas, a Coahuila municipality where 65 miners died in an explosion at the Pasta de Conchos coal mine in 2006. Only two bodies were recovered after that disaster.