Families desperate to recover bodies at Mexico mine
Alberto Fajardo, Reuters May 7, 2011, 5:52 am SABINAS, Mexico (Reuters) - Rescuers pulled a seventh body from a collapsed coal mine in northern Mexico on Friday as families gave up hope of finding seven other trapped workers alive after an explosion earlier this week.Weary miners took turns round the clock to dig away rubble in the shallow mine shaft that collapsed on Tuesday after a methane gas explosion outside the town of Sabinas in the desert state of Coahuila bordering Texas."I’ll bring up my son’s body in pieces if I have to," said miner Adolfo Gonzalez as he rested after an exhausting spell underground reinforcing and ventilating a tunnel to try to reach the remaining bodies. "I just want my son’s body," said Maria Antonia Rios, reflecting a sense that no one survived.The accident was a reminder of the dangers facing the thinly regulated industry. In a separate incident on Thursday an opal mine collapsed in the western state of Jalisco, killing three people from a nearby town who were at the site.Mexico has been a leading minerals exporter for centuries and expects some $4 billion in investment in its mining industry this year, but smaller mines often escape inspection and bypass almost the most basic safety standards.Labor Minister Javier Lozano, who is eager to avoid the kind of public anger sparked by Mexico’s worst coal mining accident in 2006 -- when 65 miners died -- pledged to recover the remaining seven bodies in Sabinas. But he said rescuers were tiring and that progress was slow."We need more hands on deck, we need more people," he said at the pit, which had been in operation for 20 days and was only about 150 feet deep. Rescuers are volunteers, but Lozano pledged to pay them from now on.The seventh recovered body was that of a 33-year-old miner who was hauled out in the early hours of Friday, Lozano said.Digging up near-surface coal in impoverished Coahuila is a way of life for thousands of miners who sell the coal to the Mexican state for power generation. They often work with little more than basic tools, and accidents are common.The informal mines, known as "pocitos" or little holes, are dug and run by men with blackened faces who can extract as much as 30 metric tons of coal a day. Using a bucket and a cable attached to a truck engine, they haul out rocks in the desert heat.Even the country’s bigger coal mines can be dangerous.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 mistrust between Grupo Mexico and unions, which are pushing for improved safety regulations at Mexican mines.