Three illegal alien suspects from Mexico were arrested Wednesday at the Co-Op Mine, a coal mine 10 miles west of Huntington, Emery County, according to the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Meryl E. Rogers, officer in charge of the service's Salt Lake office, said, "The quarters that the mine was providing these illegal alien employees were probably some of the filthiest, worst-kept quarters that I've ever seen in my 20-year career."The mine, however, denies it was supplying quarters.

Rogers said the suspects, whose names have not been released, were paid $4.50 an hour. "The going rate for a miner is a lot higher than that," he said, noting that union scale coal miners get somewhere between $14 and $18 an hour.

"These people (arrested Wednesday) will be returned to Mexico," Rogers said. He indicated the ownership could be facing a fine.

Rogers said the service arrested around a dozen illegal aliens at the same mine three years ago.

A spokesman for the Co-Op Mine, who asked not to be identified, told the Deseret News Thursday the workers were not illegally hired.

He said the immigration law forcing employers to check the legal status of new workers went into effect in November 1986. "We were definitely instructed by Immigration at that time not to fire any employees that we already had; that was not our concern," he said.

"These were hired before that time. Of course, like we say, we had no idea whether they were legal or not because at that time we weren't required to check them."

The spokesman said most of the workers live in Price and no one lives on site. "There used to be some trailers (near the mine), and there was so much upkeep on them that we have simply told them that they are not for rent. They are not available." He did say some have temporarily gone into the trailers on their own, but when he hears about it he tells them to find somewhere else to live.

On the $4.50 wage, the spokesman said: "That is the starting wage for common laborers. Machine operators get a lot more than that."