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Mexico prepares new plan for captive miners after setback

#Mexico #prepares #plan #captive #miners #setback

Mexican authorities on Monday announced a plan to plug leaks at a coal mine where 10 workers have been trapped for more than a week after renewed flooding caused a major setback for rescue efforts.

A sudden rise in water levels at the El Pinabete mine in northern Coahuila state deepened the despair of loved ones, who are increasingly frustrated at the slow pace of the operation.

The water in the shaft that rescuers plan to enter was about 38 meters deep Monday, compared with 1.3 meters early Sunday, said National Civil Protection Coordinator Laura Velazquez.

According to the government, the current level is even higher than in the first aftermath of the Aug. 3 accident, despite continued efforts to pump out water.

The new strategy is designed to prevent more water from entering El Pinabete from the much larger, abandoned Conchas Norte mine nearby, Velazquez said.

The plan is to drill 20 holes 60 meters deep into the Conchas Norte mine and inject cement to plug the leaks, Velazquez said.

Authorities believe workers accidentally drilled a hole in a wall between the two mines, causing El Pinabete to flood.

“We will not stop working to save the miners,” President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador told reporters.

Five miners managed to escape after the first accident, but there were no signs of life from the others.

Several hundred rescuers, including soldiers and military divers, are participating in the rescue effort.

The focus so far has been pumping water out of El Pinabete and removing wood and other debris from the vertical shafts so rescuers can get into the main tunnels.

On Friday, authorities had said they were finally able to begin searching for the mine, but those hopes soon faded.

Over the weekend, relatives of the missing workers expressed growing despair and distrust about the handling of the rescue operation.

They also called for mine owners to be held accountable.

“This is a crime that cannot go unpunished,” Magdalena Montelongo told reporters, adding that the miners had to work in “very bad conditions.”

Accidents are a daily occurrence in Coahuila, Mexico’s main coal producing region.

The worst was an explosion that killed 65 people at the Pasta de Conchos mine in 2006.

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