Mexico’s coal miners threat their lives to earn a residing. digging

At any time when Juan Briones ventures into the bottom to dig coal within the state of Coahuila in northern Mexico, he is aware of he has to strike a stability to earn a residing and keep away from demise.

Miners know the dangers, Briones stated, however typically really feel they don’t have any selection within the metropolis of Sabinas, Coahuila, the place jobs are scarce. There are few choices that may match the roughly $150 you are taking dwelling in per week.

“It’s essential survive to handle your loved ones,” the 35-year-old stated in a current interview at his dwelling, when his spouse helped him clear off the black mud that had gathered on his pores and skin after a day. Of. A burning mine. The couple has 4 sons aged six, eight, 10 and 15.

When he first descends, he typically feels as if he cannot breathe. He walks out on the finish of the day, lined in sweat.

In August, his brother-in-law Hugo Tijerina was considered one of them. 10 miners trapped in a close-by coal mine The water at Al Pinabette broke via the wall of a shaft and flooded the tunnels they had been working in. Almost two months later, their our bodies nonetheless have not been recovered.

Even earlier than the El Pinabate mine catastrophe, he urged his eldest, who has dropped out of college, to keep away from the dangerous work to which he has devoted the final twenty years of his life.

mexico miners
Juan Briones, 35, waits with different miners for transport to work at a coal mine in Sabinas, Mexico. [Daniel Becerril/Reuters]

“It is a actually powerful job, particularly due to accidents,” he stated. “I did not need the identical factor to occur to him the place he goes to work within the mines with dangers.”

Briones, who began mine on the age of 14, works dozens of meters under the bottom with helmets, gloves and metal toe boots for security, alerts for tumbling rocks, defective pulleys, poisonous gasoline and underground flooding Feather.

His brother-in-law had inspired him to work at El Pinabette, however he turned it down, saying he feared that the close by deserted mines may break and flood the massive swimming pools of water – which It occurred in the course of the excavation work on 3 August. As a consequence of which the wall of the tunnel collapsed. Efforts to drag out the mine and rescue the miners finally failed.

The catastrophe uncovered the hazards of employees in small, unregulated mines in Mexico’s coal heartland, the place folks like Brión are informally employed and paid in money to extract coal that shaped within the Earth hundreds of thousands of years in the past within the Cretaceous interval. goes.

El Pinabate, considered one of a number of Coahuila mines tapped to offer coal to Mexico’s state electrical utility, was not visited by labor inspectors, Reuters reported final month. Mexican regulation doesn’t require such mines to be inspected earlier than opening.

This was not the primary tragedy on the Coahuila mine. In 2006, an explosion on the Pasta de Conchos mine killed 65 folks. Solely two our bodies had been recovered.

mexico miners
Juan Briones smokes a cigarette after ending his shift. [Daniel Becerril/Reuters]

Briones’ taut, lean body belies the power he possesses, which permits him to work as much as eight hours a day, a pneumatic air gun to blast rock and dig coal via underground tunnels. Takes a shovel and carriage.

He may earn 2,700 pesos ($135) per week by lifting 18 tons of coal off the bottom. The pay rises to three,300 pesos ($165) if he can ship an extra two tons—an incentive to push his physique more durable and quicker.

He trades playful barbs with fellow employees to make the hours cross quicker. Nonetheless, he stays alert for risks. As he goes into the darkish, he thinks of his spouse’s brother and the opposite 9 who by no means return.

“You are all the time afraid of not coming again,” Briones stated. “Once I’m working down, I miss all of them.”

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