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Deadly Mining Accident in Mexico

January 25, 2002

SAN ANTONIO (AP) _ The bodies of three Mexican miners were recovered and 10 were missing and presumed dead Thursday after an accident flooded a small coal mine in northern Mexico, trapping the miners 200 feet below ground.

Four divers and about 150 other rescue workers battled black water and collapsed tunnels in an attempt to pull bodies from La Espuelita mine in Barroteran, about 90 miles southwest of the Texas border city of Eagle Pass.

The accident occurred Wednesday.

The mine was a privately owned operation known as a pocito, where thin seams of coal are mined using outmoded methods that generally violate Mexican safety standards, the San Antonio Express-News reported in Friday editions.

The mine transported workers on a cable down a small shaft that also was used to deliver coal to the surface. Mines with single vertical shafts are illegal in most countries, including Mexico, because they offer no escape route if the shaft becomes blocked.

Local police spokesman Sergio Robles Garza told Mexico’s state news agency Notimex that rescuers were frantically digging to try to reach those still in the mine.

Authorities have not determined the cause of the accident, but rescuers and mine veterans said miners digging for coal likely broke through to an adjacent abandoned tunnel that had flooded.

The disaster in Barroteran is the second in Coahuila’s coal-mining region in four months. In September, a dozen miners died when a mine exploded in the village of Santa Mara, about 30 miles north of La Espuelita.

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