Miners trapped in Coahuila: Reality reached the rescue of the miners
“Most (probably all) of the mine was filled with water at the time of the original transfer. From the water level of the vertical shots (it is concluded that) all the available space was occupied by water”.
“The premise is that (the miners) can be close to where they were when the flood hit. But evidently the force of the current and internal eddies could have displaced them, although not a long distance because there is no evidence of continuous currents of water.
These two comments come from a specialist member of the team of engineers, mining technicians, geologists and elements of civil protection and the Armed Forces who have been working for almost four weeks in August to search for 10 men trapped at the bottom of a coal mine. flooded at noon on August 3.
The evaluation of the specialist, who requested anonymity to freely comment on the conclusions of the rescue team, says what the authorities have not wanted to say openly: that the miners drowned and that there is no certainty where their bodies are, since they were probably dragged through the water beyond the underground chambers where the five companions who managed to survive last saw them.
This reality reached the Mexican government and its efforts to find the miners last week, when they announced that their rescue plan would have an estimated duration of 6 to 11 months, a deadline that cancels any possibility that they are alive.
That deadline was the reason why the relatives of the miners, waiting since the afternoon of August 3, rejected the search plan. It’s too long, they said, giving authorities a pretext to drop the search at any time because they no longer trust official information. Because there are also no guarantees that the bodies can be found and recovered.
Because for days, the tone of Laura Velázquez, head of the National Civil Protection Coordination, was one of optimism not justified by the conditions on the ground.
“Let’s hope (the rescue) is today,” he said on August 11, eight days after a flood at the El Pinabete mine trapped workers.
The next day, Velázquez announced that they had managed to evacuate the water that had filled the mine, more than 200,000 cubic meters, or the equivalent of 10 Olympic swimming pools. That same day, he hoped, the rescue teams would come down to start the rescue.
He spoke of the rescue as if it were imminent, despite the fact that the first rescuers who descended through the drained vertical shafts found no human footprints at the mouth of the tunnel, only rubble, pipes and wood, which indicated a much more arduous search for into the nooks and crannies of the mine through underground galleries that were not even well mapped, because the mine had not had safety inspections.
But the rescuers did not come back down to search beyond the mouths of the tunnels, because between August 13 and 15 the mine was again flooded with leaks from a neighboring abandoned mine. Since that day, those leaks have released more than 500,000 cubic meters of water, double the original flood.
Since then, the bulk of the work has gone into evacuating the water from the mine, where the levels of the vertical shots still exceed 30 meters, impossible to attempt any rescue.
“At the moment there are no conditions or possibility to go down, due to the flooding of the shot. If controlled, it would have to be lowered little by little to reconnoiter the terrain,” the specialist member of the rescue team told me. But several conditions must be met: that there is no possibility of another flood, that there is no presence of gases, that the walls of the mine are not at risk of collapsing as they are softened by moisture and that all obstructions to free access are removed, such as rubble, piles, machinery.
Geological studies carried out last week show little chance of reducing the abundance of water around the mine soon, so ruling out the risk of flooding or landslides due to humidity would be too risky.
Given the risks, the rescue team proposed to dig a pit with ramps to access the place where the miners could be. This option is the one that relatives reject. The member of the rescue team assures that the option is viable but slow: “it requires planning, machinery, engineers and experienced miners.” But also “patience to solve the technical, geological and hydraulic challenges that arise
And, above all, “continuous financial and material resources. They are assumed to be constant and unlimited and the rescue intent is genuine.”
The specialist says that the solution to the problem does not depend on technology or international technicians with greater knowledge, but on applying the geological and mining knowledge of the area “with patience.”
“Nature asserted its strength and power,” he says. “You can’t go against it but find a way to shape it and dominate it.” He warns that it is a task that will take a long time and that it is even possible that the search “could be fruitless after weeks or months.”
That is what no one at the El Pinabete mine wants to openly admit yet.
Javier Garza Ramos is a journalist based in Torreón, Coahuila.
subscribe here to newsletter of EL PAÍS Mexico and receive all the informative keys of the news of this country