Image credits: Adriano Ruiz
News Article

CAMIMEX Evaluates Challenges of Open-Pit Coal Projects

By Fernando Mares | Thu, 10/20/2022 - 12:42

After the disastrous collapse of a coal mine in Sabinas, Coahuila, industry leaders proposed different measures to prevent further deaths in the coal mining industry, among them the complete transformation of coal shafts into open-pit mining projects. However, experts pointed out that this may not be possible for every type of coal mine.

During a presentation on operational safety by the Mexican Mining Chamber (CAMIMEX), some experts commented on the proposal to transform coal deposits into open-pit projects, through which companies intend to reduce accidents. Nonetheless, they agreed that applying such changes could not work for all projects since they all have their unique differences. 

Karen Flores, Director General, CAMIMEX, said that projects aiming to become open-pit mines must first follow the recommendations set in the Official Mexican Norm (NOM) 032, which regulates the operations of underground coal mines. By following the regulation by the book, companies can already significantly reduce the risk of accidents.

Flores added that it is difficult to transform all projects in open-pit mines since coal deposits may have difficult geographical and geological aspects to deal with. 

Flores underscored the importance of regulating mines and affiliating companies with CAMIMEX, as she once again commented that the collapsed mine in Sabinas was not an asset owned by a CAMIMEX member. “El Pinabete was not affiliated with CAMIMEX and I would not even call it an actual mine. In Coahuila, coal dams unfortunately sometimes operate without any concession. As far as we know, El Pinabete never followed safety procedures nor complied with environmental regulations. It is important to supervise and strengthen authority revisions,” Flores said. 

Juan Peña, President of the Commission on Safety and Health, CAMIMEX, added that costs also play an important role in transforming deposits. He said that some mines are viable to operate as open-pit projects if the coal layer is near the surface. However, when the layer is located deeper, they are more viable if they are developed as underground mines. 

The collapse of the El Pinabete mine has drawn safety concerns into the public spotlight. Even though mining is one of the most regulated industries in Mexico and has the lowest incident rate, CAMIMEX has been developing further measures to address accidents. On Oct. 13, 2022, MBN, reported the CAMIMEX, along with the Technological University of Zacatecas (UTZac) developed a standard for underground mining rescue efforts. The standard will allow employees to certify their knowledge in rescue operations and will be backed by the National Council for Competence Normalization and Certification (CONOCER). 

The data used in this article was sourced from:  
MBN, Milenio
Photo by:   Adriano Ruiz
Fernando Mares Fernando Mares Junior Journalist and Industry Analyst