MAC: Mines and Communities

Miners File Murder Charges Against Grupo Mexico

Published by MAC on 2006-03-17
Source: Reuters ()

MEXICO / Miners file murder charges against Grupo Mexico

MEXICO CITY, (Reuters)

17th March 2006

A Mexican union has filed murder charges against mining company Grupo Mexico and the government after 65 miners were killed last month in an explosion at a coal mine.

Mexico's miners' and metalworkers' union said late on Thursday it formally accused Grupo Mexico, Labor Minister Francisco Salazar and two mine inspectors of homicide.

The workers died after a methane explosion at the Pasta de Conchos mine in the northern state of Coahuila on Feb. 19.

Union leaders say Grupo Mexico <GMEXICOB.MX, the world's No. 3 copper miner, ignored safety concerns but the company has denied negligence.

Co-workers gave up rescue efforts after digging for six days in search of the miners, some of them almost 1.5 miles (2.5 km) underground.

Family members said miners regularly overlooked safety procedures that could have slowed the pace of work because their payment was based on productivity.

The government has vowed to investigate and has said Grupo Mexico will face sanctions if found to be responsible for the disaster. Grupo Mexico, unavailable for comment on Friday, has said the mine passed safety inspections in days leading up to the explosion.

About 450 men worked in the mine for salaries of between $250 and $500 a month.

So far, no bodies have been reached and the the union said miners were being offered double pay to continue recovery efforts, even though dangerous gases remain in the tunnels.

After rescue efforts were called off, Grupo Mexico offered to pay compensation of about $70,000 for each of the men killed and almost $10,000 for 13 men who were injured in the blast.

The blast sent temperatures soaring above 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit (600 degrees Celsius) and filled mine shafts and tunnels with poisonous gases as well as collapsed rock.

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