Part of an open-pit coal mine in Sabinas, Mexico. Photo by la nave de los locos.
Mexico, News Briefs

Mexican Mine Explosion Leaves Five Dead; “No Chance” For Other Miners, Labor Secretary Says

May 4, 2011 By Andrew OReilly

Part of an open-pit coal mine in Sabinas, Mexico. Photo by la nave de los locos.

The gas explosion that trapped 14 miners underground Tuesday in the northern Mexican state of Coahuila has now claimed the lives of five of those workers.

Rescue crews at the mine near the town of Sabinas worked overnight to rescue the trapped miners, but have so far only recovered five bodies. Mexico’s Secretary of Labor Javier Lozano  announced the deaths of miners Julio César Reséndiz Domínguez, Mario Alberto Anguiano Montes, Leobardo Sánchez Santos, Isaías Valero Pérez and Juan Carlos Escobedo Chávez.

“The experts are telling us that there’s no chance (the miners are still alive) after an accident of this nature,” Lozano said.

Rescue crews from Chile are expected to arrive today to aid civil defense personnel and support groups.

Lozano was critical of the conditions at the mine, which had allegedly operated for 20 days without any authorization and which the Mexican mine workers’ union called totally unsafe. The mine is owned by the compnay BINSA.

Lozano added that there was no official record of the miner’s working at the site and that the mine “operated almost the underground.” The Mexican Attorney General’s office (PGR, in Spanish) is already investigating the explosion

Mining near-surface coal in the region is a way of life for thousands of miners who sell the coal to the Mexican state for power generation and often work with little more than basic tools. The industry has recently come under attack due to concerns over worker’s safety and their livelihood.

Mining accidents are common, as in 2006 a blast at the Pasta de Conchos mine collapsed thousands of tons of rocks and killed 65 miners. To this date only two bodies have been recovered from the accident.

Families of those who died in the mine accident are pressing for a renewed effort to recover the 63 bodies still trapped in the mine.

Despite the grim news surrounding the mine explosion, Mexican President Felipe Calderón tried to sound hopeful and assure families of the miners that the federal government was working with state officials to coordinate the rescue effort.

“We are praying that they are alive, and we are working and doing everything possible that is within our reach to rescue them,” he said, according to CNN.

Photo: la nave de las locas @ Flickr.