September 7, 2022 - Mexican authorities on Monday outlined an 11-month plan to search for and recover the bodies of 10 coal miners trapped underground a month ago, a quiet admission that they are giving up on ambitions of rescuing the men alive.
The shift to a recovery comes after a tunnel wall collapsed and flooded the Pinabete mine in the northern border state of Coahuila on Aug. 3, triggering weeks of around-the-clock rescue efforts to pump water out of the mine and free the men.
Relatives of miners trapped in the flooded Pinabete coal mine react while talking to reporters after rejecting a government plan to find the miners that officials said could stretch from six and 11 months, in Sabinas, Coahuila state, Mexico August 25, 2022.
REUTERS/Cesar Alejandro Fernandez/File Photo
Manuel Bartlett, the head of national electricity company CFE, told reporters on Monday in a visit to the mine 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," Bartlett said.
On Sunday, 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.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador first signaled the government's shift from rescue to recovery on Aug. 28, when he spoke about a plan in the works to "remove the bodies" from the mine.
Bartlett and the director of Mexico's Civil Protection agency, Laura Velazquez, met with the miners' wives, who Velazquez said "are in agreement" about the plan.
Lopez Obrador said last week that the miners' families would receive government compensation, noting that many live in poverty.
In a statement Monday, CFE detailed the process to recover the bodies by pulling out 5.6 million cubic meters of material from an open pit mine that is expected to measure 450 meters (1,476 ft) long, 320 meters wide and 60 meters deep.
The entire process will be conducted in six stages over 11 months, CFE said.