(updates throughout)


Seven men died Wednesday in an explosion at a coal mine in the northern Mexican state of Coahuila, authorities said.

The victims ranged in age from 22 to 39, the spokesman for the state emergency management office, Juan Antonio Ibarra, told Efe.

The blast occurred at 8:30 a.m. as the men were digging a ventilation shaft, according to Coahuila Public Safety Secretary Jorge Luis Moran Delgado.

"They apparently bumped into one of the pockets of methane gas," he told Efe.

The Deborquez mine, owned by the Minera El Progreso company, "had their documentation in order, apparently," the state official said.

The mine had only been operating for a week prior to the accident, the federal labor department said in a statement, adding that Minera El Progreso "has been the object of 16 inspections" and is facing sanctions in connection with problems at its other mines.

Miguel Pompa Corella, chairman of the Mexican Congress' mining committee, recently presented a bill to tighten regulation of coal mines, where dozens of workers have died in recent years.

Coahuila is home to numerous coal mines, many of which fall short of official safety standards.

A February 2006 gas explosion at the Pasta de Conchos coal mine in San Juan de Sabinas, Coahuila, killed 65 men. Only two of the bodies were ever recovered. EFE