Chile re-inters miners

From the September-October 2013 issue of News & Letters:

Chile re-inters miners

The world watched transfixed three years ago when 33 Chilean gold and copper miners were entombed by a roof collapse for 69 days 2,300 feet underground. The fate of the miners was unknown until a drill broke through near where the miners were trapped, and the miners said that all had survived.

Rescue specialists decided to drill another hole big enough to rescue the miners. A special video camera allowed the world to see the final rescue. Government officials vowed to take steps to make sure that something like this would never happen again—the same speech heard after every disaster.

A special government commission determined that the roof collapse could have been avoided if safety procedures had been followed, and that the mine owners were responsible. The mine had been cited by Chile’s mining authority for many safety violations resulting in deaths and injuries to miners, and had been ordered closed until the safety violations were corrected. However, the mine owners reopened the mine, and two weeks later the roof collapsed.

Despite this overwhelming evidence against the owners, at the most recent court hearing the judge heard prosecutors blame the state mining authority and mine owners, while mine owners blamed the prosecutors, the mining authority and the miners themselves. Then the judge ruled, unbelievably, that no one was responsible! Upon hearing the judge’s decision, one surviving miner let out a string of curses and declared of Chile’s court system, “What else can we expect.”

Clearly, justice was not served for the Chilean miners and their families.

—Andy Phillips

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