Rescuers get closer to site of Mexican mine disaster,0617 |

Rescuers get closer to site of Mexican mine disaster,0617

SAN JUAN DE SABINAS, Mexico – More than three days of backbreaking labor brought rescuers close to the site where two of 65 trapped coal miners are believed to be located, a federal official said Wednesday.Whether the two men are dead or alive could provide a clue to the fate of workers trapped deeper inside the Pasta de Conchos mine, federal Labor Secretary Francisco Salazar said.”These two people will give us an indication of what it is that could have happened,” Salazar told the Televisa television network Wednesday morning.Salazar said the two conveyor belt operators are believed to be less than 54 yards past a wall of debris that rescuers have been trying to break through since early Tuesday. The miners were trapped by an underground gas explosion early Sunday.Mine administrator Ruben Escudero told family members that workers had been able to pump additional fresh air into the mine, possibly allowing rescuers to shed their oxygen tanks and work faster without the extra weight.Because of fears that machinery could spark explosions, rescuers wearing gas masks and tanks have had to move tons of fallen dirt, rock, wood and metal with picks and shovels.They got through a wall of debris, only to encounter another 600 yards inside the tunnel early Tuesday. While the two conveyer belt operators may be just beyond the second wall, most of the others are thought to be as far as three miles from the mine’s entrance.Anguished family members were camping outside the mine gates in the freezing cold on the patch of scrub desert in the state of Coahuila, about 85 miles southwest of Eagle Pass, Tex.”What we want to know is when they are going to find our family members,” said Miguel Arteaga, whose 39-year-old brother, Juan Raul Arteaga, is in the mine.”I’m not leaving here without my brother,” he said.Mine administrators have said the ventilation system has been pumping some fresh air into the tunnels, but that they could not be sure it was reaching the trapped miners.Mine operators have said each of the 65 men was carrying a tank with only six hours of oxygen supply. They also said there were oxygen tanks scattered throughout the mine.President Vicente Fox said Wednesday that his government was doing everything possible to rescue the miners.”I still have hope that everrything will turn out OK,” he said.Javier de la Fuente, an engineering contractor with mine owner Grupo Mexico S.A. de C.V., said Tuesday it was too early to declare the miners dead.Officials at the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration said Tuesday they were sending several mining experts and a truck with specialized equipment for analyzing gas samples to help with the rescue operation. The team was expected to arrive at the mine site Wednesday, the agency said.The workers were installing wooden and metal supports in four recently dug mine extensions when the gas exploded Sunday. At least a dozen workers near the entrance were able to escape with burns and broken bones.Mining union representatives have asked for an investigation into the explosion. Mine representatives and federal officials have said the site passed a recent routine inspection this month.Grupo Mexico is the world’s third-largest copper producer, with operations in Mexico, Peru, and the United States.—On the Net:Grupo Mexico, S.A. de C.V.:, Colorado

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