Mexico: six killed in latest mining disaster

Six Mexican coal miners were killed on Aug. 3 when some 100 tons of coal and rock collapsed in a mine operated by Altos Hornos de México S.A. de C.V. (AHMSA) in Barroterán community, Progreso municipality, in the northern state of Coahuila. One miner was trapped but survived with minor injuries; he was rescued about an hour after the collapse. The other 287 workers in the mine escaped without injuries. Some workers thought a methane explosion caused the accident, but management attributed it to “a pocket of methane gas,” not an explosion.

The latest disaster came just nine days after seven workers were killed, all members of the same family, in a methane explosion on July 25 in Múzquiz, Coahuila, 40 km from the AHMSA mine. In a press conference on Aug. 3, Coahuila governor Rubén Moreira Valdez discounted the possibility of suspending mining operations in the state, saying that Coahuila’s mining industry directly generates more than 20,000 jobs and produces 8 to 11% of Mexico’s electric power. Instead, he called for finding a way to locate and remove methane gas from the mines.

On Aug. 4 several labor rights organizations issued a communiqué demanding that coal mine operators “invest in the application of existing technology to guarantee miners’ lives.” The groups—which included the Pasta de Conchos Family, an organization of relatives of 65 coal miners killed in a methane explosion in Coahuila in February 2006—said it was “not acceptable, in any manner or by any argument, that this investment be conditioned on the gaining of profits.”

Eleven miners were killed in a methane explosion in a Coahuila mine in May of 2011, according to labor rights groups, and a total of 30 miners died in accidents in the state that year. The groups say the majority of the state’s miners are paid from 70 a 150 pesos (about US$ 5.39-11.44) a day. (BBC News, Aug. 3; La Jornada, Aug. 4; AFP, Aug 4)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Aug. 5.