Mexico to begin search for victims of 2006 Pasta de Conchos mine blast in 2022

A relative of the 65 miners who died during an explosion is pictured during a meeting with Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador at Pasta de Conchos coal mine, in San Juan de Sabinas, Mexico October 23, 2020. REUTERS/Daniel Becerril

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico's government in early 2022 will start searching for the bodies of dozens of coal miners killed more than a decade ago in one of the country's worst mining disasters, an official said on Friday.

Only two bodies were ever recovered after the 2006 explosion at the Pasta de Conchos mine in the northern state of Coahuila. Sixty-five men were killed and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has vowed to find the bodies of the other victims.

Initial excavations of the mine will begin by September 2021 after an analysis of the subsoil, said Manuel Bartlett, head of the CFE electricity commission that is leading the effort.

"We're confident that the beginning of the direct search will be in the first quarter of 2022 and conclude in August 2024," Bartlett said at an event attended by widows of the miners.

Lopez Obrador, speaking at the same event, said he would urge the process to go as fast as possible while still staying safe for rescuers, and would provide reparations to the families of the victims.

Grupo Mexico, which operated the mine, has maintained that the disaster was an unfortunate accident. It transferred the concession for the site to the government early this year.

(Reporting by Sharay Angulo, Noe Torres and Daina Beth Solomon; editing by Grant McCool)

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