The Mexican authorities at all levels incur institutional responsibility by failing to prevent, investigate, sanction and repair the persistent and continuous irregular or illegal exploitation of mineral coal in Sabinas, Coahuila, which generates affectations and risks for the population.
It is the conclusion of a recommendation from the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), which was published on December 9, 2018 and which warned of the risk posed by water channels modified by the mining industry, both for workers and for residential areas.
The recommendation is focused on the mining activities of the communities of Agujita and Cloete. In Agujita is the mining well that collapsed this Wednesday and left nine workers trapped.
The recommendation forced agencies such as the Ministry of Economy, the Environment, the National Water Commission, the state government of Coahuila and the municipal government of Sabinas, among others, to take action. The recommendation was made public in December 2018, when López Obrador’s cabinet was already in office, but the documents are addressed to officials of Enrique Peña Nieto, due to the dates on which the procedures were carried out.
The CNDH observed that in the places where the excavations are located, There are no safety and signaling measures to avoid accidents.which implies a risk for the inhabitants due to the deficiencies of the authorities to make the indicated regulations effective, which also accounts for their inefficiency in the Carboniferous Region.
One of the aspects studied by the researchers was the danger posed by the “wells”, such as the one that collapsed on August 3; It is the technique of extracting mineral coal through vertical wells, normally through artisanal mechanisms used by small miners.
Danger due to affected channels
The CNDH determined that the mining companies have affected the watercourses, which generates danger for mining exploitation and for the communities themselves. The recommendation is focused on the mining activities of the communities of Agujita and Cloete.
The recommendation documents how companies diverted the bed of the Cloete stream, in Sabinaswhich implies “risk conditions due to the possible existence of flooding in the works and their surroundings, as well as infiltration and softening of the walls of the pits.”
The hydrological redirection actions and the excavation of the pits have increased the potential for flooding within these works, given that the modified channel has a shallower depth, coupled with the fact that infiltrations were observed in the walls of the pits surrounding the channel.
During the investigation, CNDH officials interviewed an official (responsible authority), who said that the riverbeds had been modified, but that they had placed a retaining wall in one place, although it was unknown if it was effective:
The assertions of AR7 (responsible authority) draw attention, endorsing the considerations raised by the inspectors, in that, although the federal zone was affected, “it was protected by a retaining wall, [aunque] there are no technical-administrative elements to establish a reduction and/or deviation from the natural course of the current”…
The CNDH found that the Ministry of Economy has failed to investigate and sanction the exploitation of mineral coal in sites not covered by concessions; a series of irregular wells were detailed in the 2018 document.
It was also concluded that the secretariat has carried out a poor investigation to determine compliance with obligations established by the Mining Law for concessionaires, fundamentally in the areas of structural safety, environmental protection and effects on third parties, without forgetting that said disturbances are present in the same way in cases of illegal exploitation without a concession that protects them.
As for SEMARNAT, institutional responsibility is initially motivated by the lack of exhaustiveness to assess environmental impacts.