Hope Lost for Mexican Miners: The Families Agree to End the Rescue Efforts
September 1, 2022 - In a heart-breaking conclusion to the search for the 10 men trapped in “El Pinabete” mine in northern Coahuila, the families reportedly have agreed to sign an agreement on Saturday, September 3, to stop the rescue efforts.
“No tiene caso seguir aquí” — “There is no use in continuing this,”said Hermelina Montelongo, the sister of Jaime Montelongo who is amongst the miners now declared dead.
The efforts to retrieve the men have been continuous since August 3, when a tunnel wall collapsed and the mine shafts were flooded.
These attempts have included the use of an underwater drone and army divers, however both strategies proved unsuccessful due to the depths at which it is believed the miners are stranded— around 200ft — and the amount of debris that now obstructs the shafts.
Following the news that it would take between 6 and 11 months to drain enough water to reach the miners, the families have decided to sign to end the search.
Included in this agreement are plans to hold a period of mourning in honour of the men. It is also promised that a memorial will be built near the mine and that the families will receive compensation for their lost loved ones.
What this compensation equates to will be decided on a case-by-case basis in line with the Mexican “Ley Federal del Trabajo” (“Federal Labour Laws”).
This tragedy comes only 13 months after the last of its kind.
In June and July 2021, cave-ins at two mines also in Coahuila resulted in the deaths of nine miners.
It is President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s new “populist” policies that are receiving the blame for these disasters.
In alleged attempts to provide more income to the poorest groups of Mexican society, López Obrador approved a plan two years ago to purchase around two-thirds of coal used for power generation from small mines.
This strategy “gave rise to a black market that wound up in the exploitation of mines that lack the safeguards needed to protect the lives of workers” says Miguel Riquelme, the governor of Coahuila state.
These narrow, antiquated mines are often referred to as “pocitos” or “little wells”. Inside them there are generally no safety exits and typically only space for one miner at a time to be lowered in.
Consequently, in his attempts to address what he believes to be one of Mexico’s main failings — inequality — López Obrador has incited the return to the perilous mines that the Mexican Congress tried to ban in 2012.
This will serve as a devastating end to the month-long ordeal that these families have said was made even more difficult by the Mexican government’s lack of communication with them.
It can now only be hoped that this will be the last in the line of avoidable tragedies in unsafe mines and that the loss of these men will spur a revision of Lopez Obrador’s treacherous energy policies.