7 September

Rescue efforts shift to recovery

Sadly, after a month of rescue efforts to find the trapped miners and pump water out of the mine, Mexican authorities have announced an eleven-month plan to recover the bodies of the trapped miners, signalling the shift away from rescue.

Manuel Bartlett, the head of national electricity company CFE, told reporters on 5 September that a plan was underway to build an open pit mine to recover the miners’ bodies.

“We have the clear assignment from the president … to start immediately, by the method of this open pit, to locate and rescue the bodies of the miners who lost their lives here,” Mr Bartlett said.

Mexico’s attorney general’s office said it had obtained arrest warrants for three individuals it accused of “having allowed illegal coal exploitation activities” at the Pinabete mine.

Mr Bartlett and the director of Mexico’s Civil Protection agency, Laura Velazquez, said the miners’ wives have agreed to the plan.

The miners’ families will receive government compensation and a memorial will be built at the site once the bodies are recovered.

In a statement, CFE detailed the process to recover the bodies, which will involve pulling out 5.6 million cubic metres of material from an open pit mine that is expected to measure 450m long, 320m wide and 60m deep.

The entire process will be conducted in six stages over eleven months.

30 August

Relatives reject government’s six to eleven month rescue plan

Relatives of the trapped miners have rejected a plan proposed by the Mexican Government to find the miners which would take six to eleven months to complete.

After three weeks since the incident at Pinabete coal mine left ten miners trapped, the Mexican Government put forward a plan to the miners’ families. But the relatives rejected the plan when officials said it would take six to eleven months.

Mexican President, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, said that officials would run a proposal by the miners’ relatives to seek their approval before publicly announcing it.

Speaking to Reuters, Erika Escobedo, the wife of one of the trapped miners, said she and the other relatives had turned down the proposal from Mexico’s civil protection agency.

“The director told us the rescue will take from six to eleven months,” Ms Escobedo said. 

“We are very sad and I’m thinking about how to break the news to my children.”

A relative interviewed by Mexican television station Milenio, said Laura Velázquez, the head of Mexico’s civil protection agency, proposed making an open pit to find the miners and offering monetary compensation to the relatives, but both measures were cold comfort.

“We don’t know how they are now, and we will know less in six months,” said the woman, who was not named. 

“We don’t want money, we want them.”

The families have urged officials to take quicker action to save the trapped miners. Mexican officials have not been able to locate the miners while relatives hope they have found an air pocket within the mine. 

Waiting six to eleven months to find the miners would mean the worst case scenario for their families.


How did the miners get trapped?

For over two weeks, ten miners have been trapped in a coal mine in Mexico, with rescue efforts being delayed by surging underground water, demanding the use of dozens of pumps.

Mexican officials, the military, and professional rescuers have prioritised pumping out water from the mine, but as the water rises higher in the mine shafts and rescuers struggle to make their way through murky, debris-filled water, efforts will continue for some time.

The miners have been trapped in Pinabete mine, in northern state of Coahuila since 3 August 2022, after excavation work caused a tunnel to collapse, triggering flooding throughout the mine.

Water surged more than halfway up the 60m mine shafts, reaching over 30m, and has continued to rise over the weeks.

Mexico’s Attorney General’s office said it had requested a judicial hearing in Coahuila to charge the mine’s alleged owner for “illicit exploitation” of a state asset, citing his “failing to comply with the law’s obligations” for coal mining.

What efforts have been made?

Officials have attempted to extract the water and debris to send rescue teams into the mine since the collapse.

After more than 300 hours of continuous and rigorous work, officials said international companies would be contacted to help with rescue efforts and provide Mexican officials with the best opinion which will take into account the conditions of the Pinabete mine.

Laura Velázquez, the head of Mexico’s civil protection agency, said officials and the Foreign Ministry will work with German and US-based companies to help rescue the miners.

“They are two companies that will give us an opinion to determine our actions with more precision,” Ms Velázquez said.

The US experts will assist in analysis and offer advice on rescue actions.

A German company and the German ambassador to Mexico, Peter Tempel, have also been contacted. Mr Tempel valued the highly trained specialists that Mexico has at its disposal to handle such situations, recognising their crucial role in the rescue.

Pumping out surging water

For the past two weeks, engineers have been installing dozens of pumps to extract the water from the Pinabete mine, but priorities lie with dewatering another nearby mine which caused the surge in water at Pinabete.

Conchas Norte mine was closed in 1996 due to flooding and has since accumulated almost two million cubic metres of water. This water has surged into the Pinabete mine, exacerbating the situation.

After clearing some debris and removing a considerable amount of water, two military divers entered the flooded shafts, but poor visibility prevented them from fully entering the mine.

Nearly 400 soldiers and other personnel, including six military scuba divers, joined the rescue effort.

Currently, officials have said that the water levels in the wells have stabilised, with the water levels in wells 2, 3, and 4 sitting at 36.8m, 39.3m and 36.3m, respectively. 

Ms Velázquez expressed confidence that water levels would not rise any further.   

Additionally, work has been carried out to install a new pump in well 2, which involved volunteer miners and personnel from the National Water Commission (Conagua). 

Ms Velázquez said that engineering and geophysical works were conducted to have a detailed sketch of the coal mine.

Delays for rescue 

Relatives grow frustrated with each day that goes by as rescuers encounter more and more setbacks.

Additional flooding and poor visibility has made it difficult for divers to reach the trapped miners.

The water in the mine was initially reduced, but the water levels rushed back to 30m, with one shaft reaching more than 41m, due to the excess water in Conchas Norte. This sudden rush of water halted all rescue operations.

As a result, officials must prioritise sealing off the two mines before attempting rescue.

With debris and darkness in the shafts, the divers have struggled to navigate their way through the shafts to search for the miners.

Officials and loved ones of the miners grow desperate, hoping advice from other countries and experts will speed up efforts and safely rescue the miners.

This is an ongoing story. To keep updated, follow Pump Magazine’s coverage here.

Related articles

©2024 Pump Industry. All rights reserved


We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.


Log in with your credentials


Forgot your details?

Create Account