By KELIN DILLON
On Monday, Aug. 29, the families of 10 Mexican miners – who have been trapped inside a flooded mine in Sabinas, Coahuila, without outside contact since Aug. 3 – accepted the Mexican government’s proposal to recover their relatives’ bodies though an up to 11-month-long excavation process and essentially accepting the miners’ lives as already lost.
The National Civil Protection Coordination (CNPC) officially proposed the rescue plan to the families on Friday, Aug. 26, which would require between six and 11 months to dig out a pit and deflood the mine to rescue the bodies of the trapped miners.
The families will reportedly receive 100,000 pesos each in compensation for the loss of their relatives’ lives as the excavation plan is carried out by the CNPC – but not before the miners’ families publicly raised concern over the fact that the compensation was offered to them by the CNPC first as a mutually exclusive option that’d cut off the possibility of the retrieval of the bodies.
Juliana Moreno, daughter and sister of two of the trapped miners, revealed the details behind the CNPC’s purported rescue or compensation offer to the press on Aug. 26, while Erika Escobedo, wife of one of the miners, referred to the plan as “giving them up for dead.” Others claimed the CNPC “pressured” the families to make their choice in less than an hour.
However, CNPC Director Laura Velázquez Alzúa refuted the claims of the choice between rescuing the bodies or a payout on her Twitter account, writing “It is #false what the relatives of the 10 trapped miners said, as I quote, ‘the authorities gave them a choice between compensation of 100,000 pesos or making the #cut to rescue the bodies.’”
“We reached an agreement today,” Velázquez Alzúa told the press on Monday, Aug. 29. “The open pit will be carried out, and we will start now, as soon as possible. I even just had a phone call with head of the state-owned Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) Manuel Bartlett, so we will be a couple of days away from the start of this great project. It is a very important engineering feat.”
“In addition to all this, once the pit is concluded, the memorial will be made, as they themselves requested … and compensation,” the CNPC head added.
Alongside the prolonged excavation plan, the mine’s land will reportedly be “delivered” to the families of the miners afterward to prevent the territory’s continued exploitation, and a chapel will be built on top of the site in the miners’ honor.
Still, reports from the families have continued to contradict the CNPC’s public statements, with sister of one of the miners Juanita Tijerina Amaya saying on Monday, Aug. 29, that the CNPC will stop its water-pumping rescue efforts on Saturday, Sept. 3, exactly one month after the mine’s collapse.
“The widows accepted that they are going to hold a memorial and that everything is going to stop,” said Tijerina Amaya. “There is no longer going to be pumping, There is going to be nothing.”
Likewise, the Pasta de Conchos Family Organization – the relatives of other Mexican miners who died in a 2006 mine collapse – criticized the CFE’s lack of action at the beginning of the collapse and condemned the CNPC’s excavation plan as “unreal” and “destined to fail,” pointing out that it will require the movement of more than 5 million tons of soil to fulfill the intended proposal and that a project of such scale is near impossible to complete within the given six- to 11-month timeline.