In 2006, 65 coal miners died in a mining accident in Coahuila, Mexico
To this date, only 2 bodies have been retrieved, and 63 bodies remain in the coal mines
The NHRF's grantee Organización Familia Pasta de Conchos works to secure the recovery process of the 63 miners remaining in the mines, and to promote better working conditions for the miners in the region

Pasta de Conchos: Fighting for the rights of miners in Mexico

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit Mexico hard, including miners, who have continued working despite the health risks this poses. This has not stopped the NHRF’s grantee Organización Familia Pasta de Conchos (OFPC), whose work to improve the working conditions for miners in Coahuila continues.

The organisation Pasta de Conchos (Organización Familia Pasta de Conchos) was established in 2006 following the mining accident that killed 65 miners in the Pasta de Conchos mine, Coahuila, Mexico. In addition to working to recover the bodies that remains inside the mine, OFPC works to improve the working conditions of the miners.

In Mexico, the government have classified mining activity as “essential work", meaning that miners have had to continue working in the mines despite the pandemic. It is very difficult to keep social distance in the small coal mines, and the workers who are already exposed to other dangerous working conditions in the mines, have also risked becoming infected with COVID-19. But facing the choice of either staying at home with no income, or go to work, many miners have chosen to continue working in the mines to be able to support their families.

Cristina Auerbach, the founder of the Organización Familia Pasta de Conchos, outside the Pasta de Conchos mine.

During the projects' course, approximately 200 miners and their families have joined the OFCP. Although the pandemic has posed many difficulties, the organisations' members have been able to meet physically with small groups of miners and continued to advocate for their rights. They have been able to address the reports they have received concerning children working in mines, and has also conducted mining inspections. In addition, the organisation has had several meetings with the federal government in Coahuila regarding the working conditions in the regions’ coal mines, as well as having physical meetings with small groups of relatives of the miners who died in the accident in 2006.

OFPC has been working for years to recover the bodies that died in the mining accident in 2006. Cristina Auerbach, the founder of OFPC, explains that family members of the miners who died in the Pasta de Conchos accident have recognised that state institutions often protect the mining companies, and not the workers and their families. OFPC is protecting the rights and working conditions for more than 1 500 miners, but despite their efforts, there have been some accidents and deaths related to unsafe working conditions. Since the accident in 2006, more than 100 miners have died in mining accidents, but no one has been held accountable for the accidents. OFPC has also faced much opposition, particularly from groups of companies and politicians, who they claim see the rights of the workers as an “expense” and not as an investment and a matter of justice.

The organisation fights for the recovery of the body of the miners who died in the accident in 2006.
Names of some of the miners who died in the accident.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic has provided for a time of reflection for the community. In fear of going to work in the coal mines, some workers in the coal mines have realized that they can use other skills they have to find other employment opportunities, for example by offering services within electricity work. Moreover, there has been increased awareness within the community of the danger carbon poses to the environment, and the young are increasingly calling for the end of the coal mine industry, linking the pandemic to the damages inflicted on the environment.

The OFPC’s cooperation with federal authorities regarding monitoring of mines and documentation is strengthened, and they have conducted more than forty trips to illegal and legal mines to investigate deaths, working conditions and to document other violations of human rights. They have also accompanied nine miners and their families in cases of human rights violations, and worked to release imprisoned miners arrested for fabricated crime charges.

The NHRF is proud to support Organización Familia Pasta de Conchos’ important work to improve the rights of miners in Coahuila, Mexico.

Cristina Auerbach has shared her story about why she is a defender to the I Defend Rights project. Listen to her story here (in Spanish):