They’re now stuck between two 200-foot-deep shafts flooded more than halfway with water, officials said during a presidential news briefing Thursday.
A team of more than 92 military personnel is working with specialists and four rescue dogs at the site, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said in a statement. They were pumping water out so that search-and-rescue teams can enter.
Six scuba divers from the National Guard Special Forces will also be dispatched, López Obrador’s office said. Five miners were able to get out and have received medical attention.
Coahuila, Mexico’s primary coal region, is responsible for 98 percent of the nation’s production, according to the World Wildlife Fund.
Extracting coal from mines is dangerous, with risks including rockfalls, collapses, fires and explosions. Inhaling coal dust long-term can also be hazardous, causing irreversible black lung disease and respiratory problems. Exposure to methane can be harmful, too.
Sixty-five miners were killed in the Pasta de Conchos mine in Coahuila in 2006 when a gas explosion caused an avalanche that trapped dozens underground. Only two bodies were recovered, in part because authorities chose not to attempt a full rescue, citing risks associated with the trapped methane gas.
In the years since, families of the Pasta de Conchos miners have fought to recover their bodies. In 2019, Mexico’s government committed to creating an action plan to recover and return the remains, according to rights group Peace Brigades International Mexico.
Last summer, nine miners were killed in cave-ins at two mines in the region.