Oct 25, 2010
After 69 days, the Chilean miners were brought to the surface. We can only rejoice that they got out alive and in good health. But all the hoopla surrounding their rescue only serves to hide the cause of the accident itself.
This gold and copper mine was closed in 2007, after an accident that killed one worker. Then it reopened in 2008, and early in 2010 a miner’s leg was badly injured. He accused the owners of getting the authorization to reopen in an illegal manner. The former head of the National Geology and Mines Service confirmed this, when he said the mine wasn’t supposed to reopen after the 2007 accident, which had “radically modified” the geologic conditions.
The company San Esteban, the owner of the mine, naturally refused to take any responsibility for the “unforeseen” catastrophe, saying, it “functions according to the rules.” It announced that it wasn’t sure it was able to pay the miners’ wages and it could go bankrupt, since the company was “small, middle-sized,” and had only this one ore deposit. But the San Jose miners said that the mine was always leaking water, which caused frequent collapses.
According to the testimony of miners working in other “small” and “middle-sized” mines of the same type, it is precisely in such mines that working conditions are worse and the lack of safety precautions is most pronounced.
Obviously, the Chilean government, which buys the minerals from these mines, was well aware of these conditions.