On Wednesday at 1:35 p.m. there was a landslide in a coal mine in the municipality of Sabinas , Coahuila , causing a sinkhole in which they were trapped to flood, according to a tweet by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador issued to two hours after the collapse, “at least” nine miners.
This Thursday, at the presidential morning conference, Laura Velázquez, national coordinator of Civil Protection, reported that there are 10 miners who remain trapped , while five, those who managed to get out, were injured.
More than 48 hours after the mishap, no official information has yet been released about who was operating the mine, nor in whose name is the concession, since the path to answering these questions is swampy.
What is a mining concession and who has the one for the collapsed mine?
The Ministry of Economy (SE) defines a mining concession as the set of rights and obligations granted by the State, embodied in a title, and which confers on a natural or legal person, or on the State itself, the power to carry out exploration activities. and exploitation of the requested territory.
Article 12 of the Mining Law specifies that any concession, allocation or area that is incorporated into mining reserves must refer to a mining lot, “solid of indefinite depth, limited by vertical planes”, can be excavated or drilled as much as desired , provided and when it does not leave the perimeter contemplated on the surface.
The concessions have a duration of 50 years, counted from their registration in the Public Registry of Mining, and may be extended for another 50 years. However, the website through which it was possible to know the general data and the current situation of a mining concession and/or assignment, such as the name of the lot, location, surface, validity, as well as the acts, contracts and agreements is located “under maintenance” for months.
At the time of entering the Transparency section of the page of the General Directorate of Mines of the SE, the last Register of Mining Companies available for public consultation, has an update date of August 1, 2018, in such a way that the information around it is scarce.
According to what was stated by María Luisa Albores, head of the Environment and Natural Resources Secretariat (Semarnat), in a conference at the end of last year, there are 24,066 mining concessions in the country, distributed over more than 16 million hectares, equivalent to 8.59% of the national territory.
Miguel Riquelme, governor of Coahuila, pointed out on his Twitter account two hours after what happened in the coal pit located on the road to Las Conchas, in Sabinas, that authorities from the three orders of government were already in the area. , prioritizing the rescue of trapped people to subsequently “attest to the facts.”
Until now, it is only known that a person who goes by the name of ” Cristian Solis Arriaga ” is assumed to be the natural person in charge of the exploitation of the mine that was flooded last Wednesday in Sabinas, Coahuila. The State Attorney General’s Office summoned him to testify on Friday to determine if he is indeed the owner of the concession and if responsibilities can be attributed to him, since not necessarily the person under whom a concession is registered and the person in charge of operating or exploiting it, they are the same
Relatives of the workers have indicated to the media that the former mayor of Sabinas, Régulo Zapata Jaime, is the owner of the mine concession.
“This is not new. The concessionaire of the mine may or may not exploit it directly. Sometimes they have a contract with someone else who can exploit a small piece of the concession to extract coal, for example. Apparently (that of the collapsed Sabinas mine) it would be a case of this type,” says Armando E. Alatorre, president of the College of Mining Engineers, Metallurgists and Geologists of Mexico, in an interview.
A cheap fuel, but “rustic” extraction
The Ministry of Economy places Coahuila as the main producer of coal in the country with between 65 and 70 coal mines distributed in three municipalities that make up the coal region. Sabinas is one of them . But the number of coal mines is small compared to the 2,563 companies that mine non-metallic minerals, such as graphite, sulfur and salt.
José Martínez Gómez, former president of the Association of Mining Engineers, Metallurgists and Geologists of Mexico (AIMMGM), considers that due to the naturalness of the coal deposits, which occur in a kind of mantle between 60 and 200 meters deep, the processes are usually more rustic , compared to those deposits with potential for another type of exploitation, such as silver.
A ton of coal is not as profitable if it is observed with the price of other minerals . For example, according to the last financial report sent to the Mexican Stock Exchange by Industrias Peñoles, the ounce of silver was located at 22.62 dollars, which is equivalent to approximately 461.50 pesos.
About 2.5 ounces of silver, equivalent to 70 grams, cost the same as a ton of coal.
The Federal Electricity Commission, for example, formalized in October 2020 the purchase of 2 million tons of coal from 60 from the coal region of Coahuila. Each one at a price of 1,034.31 pesos, according to a company statement.
The elaboration of theological charts (cartography) is the basis for interpreting and understanding the dynamics of the earth’s crust, but Gómez points out that there are no topographical elements that allow us to know if there is or was a mine near a certain deposit, which could be full of water. and cause a flood, as in the Sabinas mishap.