May 25, 2013
Mexico: 14 miners trapped in coal mine
Fourteen workers were trapped and feared dead after an explosion at a small coal mine in northern Mexico, authorities said.
Rescue workers had not heard from the workers since the 8 a.m. explosion and warned the miners may all be dead unless they were trapped in a pocket with breathable air.
High methane levels prevented rescuers from entering the mine after the accident for much of the day, which occurred around 8 a.m., the mayor of the municipality of Sabinas, Jesus Montemayor, told Mexican radio.
"The explosion was very strong. If it was deep inside the rescue will be more difficult ... there's a lot of despair but we have to wait until the methane gas level allows us to start the rescue."
The mine appeared to be one of the many small-scale, artisanal coal mines that dot the landscape in Mexico's Coahuila state near the Texas border rather than a modern, mechanized facility.
Photographs of the mine shaft showed worried family members of the workers gathered near a simple wooden structure that surrounded a small metal derrick.
Local media reported one victim, a 14-year-old boy, lost his arm in the blast.
Rescue workers had not yet been able to enter the mine due to the presence of methane, authorities said.
El Universal newspaper said the mine belonged to Asociacion de Carboneros BINSA. BINSA representatives could not be immediately reached for comment.
Small coal mines are partially supported by the Mexican state, which buys coal for power generation from the facilities that are often located in very poor areas of the country.
The bulk of Mexican coal consumption is supplied from domestic sources although imports have increased in recent years as coal-fired power generation increases.
Mexico's worst mining accident in recent years occurred in 2006 at Grupo Mexico's Pasta de Conchos coal mine where 65 workers died following an explosion.
Families of the victims are pressing for a renewed effort to recover the 63 bodies that are still trapped in the mine.
The Pasta de Conchos accident deepened the mistrust between Grupo Mexico and organized labor in the country and unions have pushed for improved safety regulations at Mexican mines.
Grupo Mexico and other miners say they operate safely.