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A memorial to the 63 missing miners. A memorial to the 63 missing miners.

Recovering lost miners’ bodies estimated to take 4 years, cost 1.75bn pesos

The men died in a methane explosion at a Coahuila coal mine 14 years ago

Recovering the remains of 63 of 65 miners who died in a methane explosion at a Coahuila coal mine 14 years ago could take as long as four years and will cost around 1.75 billion pesos (US $77.7 million), says a spokeswoman for the victims’ families.

Cristina Auerbach told the newspaper Milenio that authorities are in the final stage of preparations to commence the project to recover the bodies of 63 miners who died at the Pasta de Conchos mine on February 19, 2006.

The explosion trapped the miners underground and only two bodies were ever recovered.

For years, relatives of the victims pleaded for efforts to be made to retrieve the other bodies but the mine owner, Grupo México, insisted that conditions were too dangerous to do so. However, President López Obrador announced on May 1 – International Workers’ Day – last year that he had ordered a recovery operation.

Labor Minister Luisa María Alcalde said in February that an expert group was planning to build a new tunnel into the mine to recover the bodies. She predicted that work on the tunnel would start in October.

However, Auerbach said it could be 2024 by the time the deceased miners’ remains are brought above ground. She said it was regrettable that some people have been critical of the cost associated with retrieving the miners’ remains, explaining that their families have been waiting for years for justice and to bury their loved ones with dignity.

“They need to put themselves in the place of the victims. … I believe that there is no project or cost that cannot be paid in exchange for justice. … It’s about recovering the remains but also about recovering the truth,” Auerbach said.

Auerbach also took aim at Morena party Senator and National Union of Mine and Metal Workers chief Napoleón Gómez Urrutia, who has called for the cost and duration of the recovery mission to be reduced.

Cost-cutting and time-saving measures were what caused the miners’ deaths, she asserted. The remains of the miners belong to their families, she added, explaining that they need to know who was responsible for the disaster and what will be done to prevent a similar occurrence in the future.

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.

Almost one year after the accident, the widows of the miners won an injunction that gave them access to internal Grupo México documents, which revealed it had been operating the Pasta de Conchos mine under less than optimal safety conditions since at least the year 2000.

However, no government officials or company representatives have been held legally responsible for the deaths of the 65 miners.

Grupo México is the country’s biggest mining company and the third biggest copper producer in the world. Its CEO is Germán Larrea Mota-Velasco, Mexico’s second richest person.

Source: Milenio (sp) 

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