2010 Copiapó mining accident

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"Copiapó mining accident" redirects here. For the 2006 accident in the Carola-Agustina mine, see 2006 Copiapó mining accident.
2010 Copiapó mining accident
Color photo of San Jose Mine from a distance with several workers in the foreground
Rescue efforts at San José Mine near Copiapó, Chile on 10 August 2010
Time 14:05 CLT (UTC−4)
Date 5 August 2010 (2010-08-05)  – 13 October 2010 (2010-10-13)
(69 days)
Location Atacama Desert near Copiapó, Chile
Coordinates 27°9′36.7″S 70°29′48.4″W / 27.160194°S 70.496778°W / -27.160194; -70.496778Coordinates: 27°9′36.7″S 70°29′48.4″W / 27.160194°S 70.496778°W / -27.160194; -70.496778
First reporter San Esteban Mining Company
Outcome All 33 trapped miners rescued by government
Property damage Total closure and loss as of August 2010[dated info]
Inquiries Under investigation as of August 2010[dated info]
Suspect(s) Under investigation as of August 2010[dated info]
Charges Under investigation as of August 2010[dated info]
Convictions Under investigation as of August 2010[dated info]
Litigation US$2 million lawsuit as of August 2010[dated info]
Awards In litigation as of August 2010[dated info]
Website Ministry of Mining, Chile
Location of the Mina San José in Chile

The 2010 Copiapó mining accident, also known then as the "Chilean mining accident", began in the afternoon of Thursday, 5 August 2010 as a significant cave-in at the troubled 121-year-old San José copper–gold mine. The mine is located in the Atacama Desert about 45 kilometers (28 mi) north of the regional capital of Copiapó, in northern Chile.[1] The buried men, who became known as "Los 33" ("The 33"), were trapped 700 meters (2,300 ft) underground and about 5 kilometers (3 mi) from the mine's entrance via spiraling underground service ramps. The mixed crew of experienced miners and technical support personnel, with less experience working underground, survived for a record 69 days deep underground before their rescue.[2][3] Previous geological instability at the old mine and a long record of safety violations for the mine's owners had resulted in a series of fines and accidents, including eight deaths, during the dozen years leading up to this accident.[4][5][6] As a result of the mine's notorious history, it was originally thought that the workers had probably not survived the collapse or would starve to death before they were found, if ever.

The country of Chile had just endured the 2010 Chile earthquake and its associated tsunami less than six months before the accident. The Chilean people's strong empathy for the workers and their grief-stricken families and the nation's tremendous outpouring of public concern led the national government to take over the faltering search and rescue operation from the mine's financially strapped owners, privately held San Esteban Mining Company. With the significant resources that the state-owned mining company, Codelco, was able to marshal, eight exploratory boreholes were hastily drilled. Seventeen days after the accident, on 22 August, a note written in bold red letters appeared taped to a drill bit when it was pulled to the surface after penetrating an area believed to be accessible to the trapped workers. It read simply "Estamos bien en el refugio, los 33" (English: "We are well in the shelter, the 33 of us"). The nation of Chile erupted into a wave of euphoria and demanded that Chile's leaders find a way to bring the trapped workers safely home to their waiting families.

Once the rescuers, and the world, knew that the men were alive, Chile implemented a comprehensive plan to both care for the workers during their entrapment and to rescue the miners from the depths. The plan included the deployment of three large, international drilling rig teams, nearly every Chilean government ministry, the expertise of the NASA space agency and more than a dozen multi-national corporations from nearly every continent; the rescue was truly a global effort. After 69 days trapped deep underground, all 33 men were brought safely to the surface on 13 October 2010 by a winching operation that lasted nearly 24 hours. After winching the last trapped miner to the surface, the mine rescue paramedics, the best available drawn from multiple national agencies and military services, all still underground, held up a sign for the TV cameras reading "Misión cumplida Chile" (English: ""Mission accomplished Chile"), which was seen by a TV/Web audience estimated at more than 1 billion viewers around the world watching the rescue live.[7][8][9]

All 33 miners were rescued, almost all in good medical condition with no long-term physical effects anticipated. Two miners were found to be suffering from silicosis, one of whom also had pneumonia, while others had dental infections and corneal problems.[10] Three of the men underwent immediate surgery under general anesthesia for their dental problems.[11] Private donations covered one-third of the US$20 million cost of the rescue, with the rest coming from the mine owners and the government.[12] Various lawsuits and investigations resulting from the accident were still pending as of March 2011. On 1 August 2013, after a three-year investigation, it ended with no charges filed.[13]

Background[edit]

Satellite photo of the mine area in the Atacama desert.
Satellite image of the San José mine and its surroundings
See also: Mining in Chile

Chile's long tradition of mining developed during the 20th century and has made the country the world's top producer of copper.[14] An average of 34 people per year since 2000 have died in mining accidents in Chile, with a high of 43 in 2008, according to figures from the state regulatory agency National Geology and Mining Service Spanish: Servicio Nacional de Geología y Minería de Chile abbreviated to SERNAGEOMIN).[15]

The mine is owned by the San Esteban Mining Company, (Spanish: Compañía Minera San Esteban abbreviated to CMSE), a company notorious for operating unsafe mines. According to an official with the non-profit Chilean Safety Association, (Spanish: Asociación Chilena de Seguridad, also known as ACHS) eight workers have died at the San José site in the past 12 years[1][5][16] while CMSE was fined 42 times between 2004 and 2010 for breaching safety regulations.[5] The mine was shut down temporarily in 2007 when relatives of a miner killed in an accident sued the company but the mine reopened in 2008[4][5] despite non-compliance with regulations, a matter that remains under investigation according to Senator Baldo Prokurica.[17] Due to budget constraints there were only three inspectors for the Atacama Region's 884 mines during the period leading up to the most recent collapse.[5]

Prior to the accident, CMSE had ignored warnings over unsafe working conditions in its mines. According to Javier Castillo, secretary of the trade union that represents San José's miners, the company's management operates "without listening to the voice of the workers when they say that there is danger or risk". "Nobody listens to us. Then they say we're right. If they would have believed the workers, we would not be lamenting this now", said Gerardo Núñez, head of the union at a nearby Candelaria Norte mine.[18]

Chilean copper mine workers are among the highest-paid miners in South America.[19] Although the accident has called mine safety in Chile into question, serious incidents at large mines are rare, particularly those owned by the state copper mining company, Codelco or by multinational companies.[20] However, smaller mines such as the one at Copiapó have generally lower safety standards.[20] Wages at the San Jose Mine were around 20% higher than at other Chilean mines due to its poor safety record.[10][20][21]

Accident[edit]

Initial information[edit]

Abstract graphic illustration of the underground accident site in the mine with markings, annotations and depths
Abstract diagram of the accident (not to scale; depths are meters AMSL)

The collapse occurred at 14:00 CLT on 5 August 2010, according to CMSE, the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare, the Chilean Undersecretary of Mining and the director of SERNAGEOMIN.[22] On the day of the accident, the National Emergencies Office of the Interior Ministry (ONEMI) (Spanish: Oficina Nacional de Emergencias del Ministerio del Interior) released the names of the 33 trapped miners,[23] which included retired Chilean footballer Franklin Lobos.[22] All the miners were Chilean nationals apart from Bolivian Carlos Mamani.[24] Laurence Golborne, Chilean Minister of Mining, was in Ecuador at the time of the disaster and arrived at the site on 7 August.[22]

When the cave-in occurred there were two groups of workers in the mine. The group nearest the entrance escaped immediately without incident. A second group of 33 men was deep inside the mine, including several subcontracted vehicle mechanics who did not normally work deep within the mine.[25] A thick dust cloud caused by the rock fall blinded the miners for up to six hours as well as causing lingering eye irritation and burning.[26]

Trapped group[edit]

Initially the trapped miners tried to escape through the ventilation shaft system, but the ladders required by mining safety codes were missing. These shafts later became inaccessible due to ground movements and could not be used by rescue teams.[27] Despite a stipulation by the authorities following a previous closure that the mine could not be re-opened without the installation of escape ladders, CMSE had failed to install the required equipment by the time of the accident.[5] Many parts of the mine were over 100 years old and access to the depths of the mine's workings were reached by a long, sloping roadway with many irregular helical turns,[28] rather than by a vertical mineshaft and elevator system.

Luis Urzúa, the duty shift supervisor, recognized the gravity of the situation and the difficulty involved in any potential rescue attempt. He gathered his men in a secure room called a "refuge" and organized them and their meager resources to ensure long-term survival. Experienced miners were sent out to assess the situation, men with important skills were given key roles while numerous other measures were taken to maximize the chances of surviving the disaster.[29]

Search and rescue attempts[edit]

Ventilation shaft[edit]

Color image of President Piñera displaying the message in a plastic document protector sent by the miners with Mining Minister Golborne
President Piñera holds the message sent by the miners along side Mining Minister Golborne (red jacket, blue shirt)

Rescuers attempted to bypass the rockfall at the main entryway through alternative passages but found each route blocked by fallen rock or threatened by ongoing rock movement. After a second collapse on 7 August, rescuers were forced to use heavy machinery while trying to gain access via a ventilation shaft.[30] Concerns that additional attempts to pursue this route would cause further geological movement halted attempts to reach the trapped miners through previously existing shafts and other means to find the men were sought.[31]

The accident happened soon after sharp criticism of the government's handling of the major Chilean earthquake and tsunami. In light of the worsening situation and amidst the increasing concern of the Chilean populace, who were deeply sympathetic to the miners plight and that of their families, President Piñera cut short an official trip and returned to Chile in order to visit the mine.[32]

Exploratory boreholes[edit]

Percussion drills were used to create eight exploratory boreholes about 16 centimeters (6.3 in) in diameter in an attempt to find the miners.[33] Out-of-date mine shaft maps complicated rescue efforts and several boreholes drifted off-target[34] due to the extreme drilling depth and the notoriously hard rock that exacerbated the drills' tendency to drift.[35] On 19 August 14 days into the rescue operation, one of the probes reached a space where the miners were believed to be trapped but found no signs of life.[36] The search and rescue operation was led by Engineer André Sougarret, head of the state-owned Codelco El Teniente Mine.[37]

Discovery[edit]

Image of hand written note in Spanish, reading ""Estamos bien en el refugio, los 33" (English: "We are well in the shelter, the 33"))
Digital representation of the note sent by the miners (English: "We are well in the shelter, the 33")

On 22 August at 07:15 CLT, the eighth borehole, drilled by TerraServices, using a Schramm T685 WS drill equipped with a 6 12-inch (17 cm) drill bit, broke through into the mine.[38] At a depth of 688 meters (2,257 ft) it reached a ramp, about 20 meters (66 ft) from an emergency shelter where it was thought that the miners had taken refuge.[39] For days the miners had heard drills approaching and had prepared notes, which they attached to the tip of the drill with insulation tape when it poked into their space. The drilling engineers had thought they heard tapping on the drill bit, but they were surprised to discover the notes when the drill bit was pulled out, as the miners had survived for 17 days, much longer than anyone had expected.[40] At 15:17 CLDT, President Piñera showed the media a note written on a piece of paper with a red marker that confirmed the miners were alive. The note read: "Estamos bien en el refugio, los 33" (English: "We are well in the shelter, the 33"). The words became the motto of the miners' survival and the rescue effort, and appeared on websites, banners and t-shirts.[41] Hours later, video cameras sent down the borehole made contact with the men, capturing the first grainy, black-and-white, silent images of the miners.[42]

Survival[edit]

Partially out of focus, black and white video capture of first view of face of one of the trapped miners
This iconic image was the world's first view of the trapped miners after a video camera was lowered down the borehole.

The trapped miners' emergency shelter had an area of 50 square meters (540 sq ft) with two long benches,[43] but ventilation problems had led them to move out into a tunnel.[44] In addition to the shelter, they had access to some 2 kilometers (1.2 mi) of open tunnels in which they could move around and get some exercise or privacy.[26] Food supplies were severely limited and each of the men had lost an average of 8 kilograms (18 lb) by the time they were discovered.[44] Although the emergency supplies stocked in the shelter were intended to last only two or three days, through careful rationing, the men made their meager resources last for two weeks, only running out just before they were discovered.[45]

After leaving the hospital, miner Mario Sepúlveda said "All 33 trapped miners, practicing a one-man, one-vote democracy, worked together to maintain the mine, look for escape routes and keep up morale. We knew that if society broke down we would all be doomed. Each day a different person took a bad turn. Every time that happened, we worked as a team to try to keep the morale up." He also said that some of the older miners helped to support the younger men but all have taken an oath of silence not to reveal certain details of what happened, particularly during the early weeks of desperation.[46]

Videos sent to the surface[edit]

slightly grainy color video capture image showing the dirty and sweaty, slightly malnourished condition of the miners
Video capture image showing the condition of the miners after 17 days trapped below ground

Shortly after their discovery, 28 of the 33 miners appeared in a 40-minute video recorded using a mini-camera delivered by the government via palomas ("doves", referring to their role as carrier pigeons), 5-foot-long (1.5 m) blue plastic capsules. The footage showed most of the men in good spirits and reasonably healthly, though they had all lost weight.[47]

The men appeared mainly bare chested and bearded. They were all covered with a sheen of sweat resulting from the high heat and humidity of the mine at that depth. Several of the miners looked very thin and some were camera shy. The host, Sepúlveda, avoided specifics about the health of the men and used the vague term "complicated" to refer to their situation. He did however work to maintain an upbeat attitude and insisted that things were looking brighter for the trapped men.[47] The video generally portrays a positive, light atmosphere.[47]

Leadership[edit]

"It's been a bit of a long shift", foreman Luis Urzúa replied with more than a bit of understatement. A man whose level-headedness and gentle humor is credited with helping keep the miners under his charge focused on survival during their 70-day underground ordeal, Urzúa kept his cool in his first audio contact with officials on the surface. He glossed over the hunger and despair he and his men felt, saying, "We're fine, waiting for you to rescue us."[48][49][50][51]

Urzúa credited majority decision-making for the trapped men's good esprit de corps and dedication to their common goal. "You just have to speak the truth and believe in democracy", he said. "Everything was voted on; we were 33 men, so 16 plus one was a majority."[48]

54-year-old Urzúa was the last man out after 70 long days trapped below the Atacama desert. Following the collapse of the mine on 5 August, he had dispatched men to find out what had happened and see if escape was possible, but they could not find an exit route. "We were trying to find out what we could do and what we could not", said Urzúa. "Then we had to figure out the food." Urzúa tried to instill a philosophical acceptance of fate so they could accept their situation and move on to embrace the essential tasks of survival.[49]

Key members of the trapped group[edit]

  • Luis Urzúa (54), the shift foreman who immediately recognized the gravity of the situation and the difficulty of any rescue attempt. He gathered the men in a secure "refuge" then organized them and their meager resources to cope with a long-term survival situation.[9][52] Just after the incident, he led three men to scout the tunnel. After confirming the situation, he made detailed maps of the area to aid the rescue effort. He directed the underground aspects of the rescue operation and coordinated closely with engineers on the surface over the teleconference links.[53][54]
  • Florencio Ávalos (31), second in command of the group, assisted Urzúa in organizing the men. Because of his experience, physical fitness and emotional stability, he was selected as the first miner to ride the rescue capsule to the surface in case of complications during the 15-minute ascent in the claustrophobic shaft. Naturally shy, he served as the camera operator for videos sent up to the miner's families. He was trapped along with his younger brother Renan.[54]
  • Yonni Barrios (50), became the medic of the trapped miners due to his six months of training he took to care for his elderly mother. He served the group by monitoring their health and providing detailed medical reports to the team of doctors on the surface. His fellow miners jokingly referred to him as "Dr. House", an American TV medical drama character.[35][52]
  • Mario Gómez (63), the eldest miner, became the religious leader of the group, organizing a chapel with a shrine containing statues of saints as well as aiding counseling efforts by psychologists on the surface.[52][54]
  • José Henríquez (54), a preacher and a miner for 33 years, he served as the miners' pastor and organized daily prayers.[54]
  • Mario Sepúlveda (40), served as the energetic host of the miner's video journals that were sent to the surface to reassure the world that they were doing well. The local media dubbed him "Super Mario" after the Super Mario Bros. video game for his energy, wit and humor.[54][55][56]
  • Ariel Ticona (29), served as the group's communications specialist, installing and maintaining the underground portion of the telephone and videoconferencing systems sent down by the surface team.[54]

Health of the trapped miners[edit]

a color photograph of the topside opening of one of the two narrow tubes and hardware used to deliver supplies to the miners 2,000 feet below
One of the two tubes used to deliver supplies to the miners 2,000 ft below

On 23 August, the first voice contact was made with the miners. Doctors reported that the miners had been provided with a 5% glucose solution and a drug to prevent stomach ulcers caused by food deprivation.[57] Material was sent down the mine in palomas, which took an hour to reach the miners.[43][58][58] Delivery of solid food began a few days later.[58][59][59] Relatives were permitted to write letters, but were asked to keep them optimistic.[43]

Out of concern for their morale, rescuers were reluctant to tell the miners that in the worst-case scenario, the rescue might take months, with an eventual extraction date close to Christmas. However on 25 August the trapped men were fully briefed on the projected timeline for their rescue and the complexity of the plans involved. The mining minister later reported that the men took the potentially negative news very well.[60]

Rescue workers and consultants described the miners as a very disciplined group.[35] Psychologists and doctors worked alongside the rescue teams to ensure the miners kept busy and mentally focused.[58][59] The men below ground confirmed their ability to contribute to the rescue operation, saying "There are a large number of professionals who are going to help in the rescue efforts from down here."[61] Psychologists believed that the miners should have a role in their own destiny as it was important to maintain motivation and optimism.[61][62][63][64]

Sanitation became an important issue in the hot, humid environment underground, and the miners took steps to maintain hygiene throughout their ordeal.[65]

Environmental and safety issues were also a primary concern.[65]

Chilean Health Minister Jaime Mañalich stated, "The situation is very similar to the one experienced by astronauts who spend months on end in the International Space Station."[66] On 31 August, a team from NASA in the United States arrived in Chile to provide assistance. The team included two physicians, one psychologist, and an engineer.[67]

After the rescue, Dr. Rodrigo Figueroa, chief of the Trauma Stress and Disaster unit of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, said there were serious shortcomings in the censorship of letters to and from miners' relatives above ground and in the monitoring of activities they could undertake, as being underground has suddenly turned them back into "babies". Nevertheless the natural strength of "The 33" kept them alive, and their natural organization into teams as a response to disaster was also part of the innate human response to threat. Figuero went on to say that as the miners' sound minds had seen them through, they would continue to be tested as they resumed life above ground.[clarification needed][68]

Religious aspects[edit]

 A color photo of a priest offering mass in a white tent with dirt floor for the workers and family members at San Jose Mine
Mass for the family members in Campamento Esperanza at San José Mine near Copiapó, Chile

The trapped miners, most of whom were Roman Catholic, asked for religious items, including Bibles, crucifixes, rosaries, and statues of the Virgin Mary and other saints to be sent down to them.[69] After Pope Benedict XVI sent each man a rosary, these were brought to the mine by the Archbishop of Santiago, Cardinal Francisco Javier Errázuriz Ossa in person.[70] After three weeks in the mine, one man who was civilly married to his wife 25 years earlier asked her to enter into a sacramental marriage.[71] The men set up a makeshift chapel in the mine, and Mario Gómez, the eldest miner, spiritually counseled his companions and led daily prayers.[69]

Among the miners, a number attributed religious significance to events. Mario Sepúlveda said, "I was with God, and with the Devil – and God took me."[69] Mónica Araya, the wife of the first man rescued, Florencio Ávalos, noted: "We are really religious, both my husband and I, so God was always present. It is a miracle, this rescue was so difficult, it's a grand miracle."[72] As one story in the British newspaper Daily Mail reported, "A deep religious faith powered this rescue; miners and families and rescuers alike believe their prayers were answered."[73]

Both government representatives and the Chilean public have repeatedly credited Divine Providence with keeping the miners alive while the Chilean public viewed their subsequent rescue as a miracle.[74] Chile's president Sebastián Piñera stated, "When the first miner emerges safe and sound, I hope all the bells of all the churches of Chile ring out forcefully, with joy and hope. Faith has moved mountains."[74] When Esteban Rojas stepped out of the rescue capsule, he immediately knelt on the ground with his hands together in prayer then raised his arms above him in adoration.[75] His wife then wrapped a tapestry bearing the image of Mary around him as they hugged and cried.[75]

Tent city and the families[edit]

Campamento Esperanza (Camp Hope) was a tent city that sprang up in the desert as word of the mine's collapse spread. At first, relatives gathered at the mine entrance and slept in cars as they waited and prayed for word on the rescue operation's progress. As days turned into weeks, friends brought them tents and other camping supplies to provide shelter from the harsh desert climate. The encampment grew with the arrival of more friends and relatives, additional rescue and construction workers, and members of the media. Government ministers held regular briefings for the families and journalists at the camp. "We're not going to abandon this camp until we go out with the last miner left", said María Segovia, "There are 33 of them, and one is my brother".[76][77]

Many members of the miners' families at Camp Hope were devout Catholics who prayed almost constantly for the men.[78] As they waited, worried families erected memorials to the trapped men, lit candles and prayed. On a nearby hill overlooking the mine, the families placed 32 Chilean and one Bolivian flag to represent their stranded men. Small shrines were erected at the foot of each flag and amongst the tents, they placed pictures of the miners, religious icons and statues of the Virgin Mary and patron saints.[79]

María Segovia, the elder sister of Darío Segovia, became known as La Alcaldesa (the Mayoress) for her organizational skills and outspokenness.[80] As the families became more organized, the government took steps to provide some comforts, eventually providing a more private area for the relatives to avoid constant interrogation by the energetic press corps. Infrastructure such as a kitchen, canteen area, sanitary facilities and security were later added. Bulletin boards sprouted up and the local government established shuttle bus stops. Over time a school house and children's play zones were built while volunteers worked to help feed the families. Clowns entertained the children and organizations provided emotional and spiritual comfort to the waiting families.[81] Police and soldiers were brought in from Santiago to help maintain order and security with some patrolling the desert perimeter on horseback. In many respects the camp gradually grew into a small city.[82][83]

Rescue plans[edit]

A watercolor painting of the Dahlbusche Bomb, the 1963 precedecessor of the phoenix used in Wunder von Lengede
Miner rescued with a Dahlbusch Bomb, the 1963 predecessor of the Fénix, Wunder von Lengede, artist depiction (1963) by Helmuth Ellgaard

Exploratory bore holes were used to locate the trapped miners, with several of these subsequently used to supply the men logistically. The Chilean government developed a comprehensive rescue plan modeled on the successful 2002 US Quecreek Mine Rescue, itself, based on the 1963 German Wunder von Lengede rescue operation. Both previous rescues had used a "rescue pod" or capsule to winch trapped miners to the surface one-by-one. Chilean rescue crews planned to use at least three drilling technologies to create bore holes wide enough to raise the miners in custom-designed rescue pods as quickly as possible. "The mine is old and there is concern of further collapses", Henry Laas, managing director of Murray & Roberts Cementation, one of the companies involved in the rescue operation, said, "The rescue methodology therefore has to be carefully designed and implemented."[84]

Drilling plans[edit]

Three large escape boreholes were drilled concurrently using several types of equipment provided by multiple international corporations and based on three different access strategies. When the first (and only) escape shaft reached the miners, the three plans in operation were:

  1. Plan A, the Strata 950 (702 meter target depth at 90°)
  2. Plan B, the Schramm T130XD (638 meter target depth at 82°) was the first to reach the miners
  3. Plan C, a RIG-421 drill (597 meter target depth at 85°)[85]

Plan A[edit]

Used an Australian built Strata 950 model raise borer[86] type drilling rig often used to create circular shafts between two levels of a mine without using explosives. Provided by South African mining company Murray & Roberts, the drill had recently finished creating a shaft for Codelco's Andina copper mine in Chile and was immediately transferred to the San José Mine. Since it weighed 31 short tons (28 t), the drill had to be shipped in pieces on a large truck convoy. The Strata 950 was the first of the three drills to begin boring an escape shaft. If the pilot hole had been completed, further drilling would have caused rock debris to fall down the hole, requiring the miners to remove several tons of debris.[87][88]

Plan B[edit]

This drill team was the first to reach the trapped miners with an escape shaft. Plan B involved a Schramm Inc. T130XD air core drill owned by Geotec S.A. (a Chilean-American joint venture drilling company) that was chosen by Drillers Supply SA (the general contractor of Plan B) to widen one of the three 5.5 inches (14 cm) boreholes that were already keeping the miners supplied with palomas. Normally, the drills are used to drill top holes for the oil and gas industry and for mineral exploration and water wells. This system employed Chilean Drillers Supply SA (DSI) personnel, Mijali Proestakis G.M. and Partner, Igor Proestakis Tech Mgr, Greg Hall C.E.O. (who joined his team on site for the last eight days of drilling) and their 7" drill pipe air core drill, a team of American drillers from Layne Christensen Company and specialized Down-The-Hole drilling hammers from Center Rock, Inc., of Berlin, Pennsylvania. Center Rock's president and personnel from DSI Chile were present on-site for the 33 days of drilling. While the Schramm rig, built by privately held Schramm, Inc. of West Chester, Pennsylvania, was already on the ground in Chile at the time of the mine collapse, additional drilling equipment was flown from the United States to Chile by United Parcel Service. The percussion-technology hammer drill can drill at more than 40 meters (130 ft) a day by using four hammers instead of one.[84][89][90][91]

The Schramm T-130 was directed to bore toward the workshop, a space that was accessible by the miners. The T-130 became operational on 5 September and worked in three stages. First, it needed to enlarge the 5.5 inches (14 cm) hole to a 12 inches (30 cm) hole. It then needed to drill the 12 inches (30 cm) hole into a 28 inches (71 cm) diameter hole. "If we tried to drill from a 5.5 inches (14 cm) hole to a 28 inches (71 cm) hole, the torque would be too high and it would ... put the drill bits under too much pressure," said Schramm, Inc. Latin American Regional Manager, Claudio Soto. However by reusing the same hole, there was still added pressure on the drill. Delays occurred because of issues with the neck of the drills caused by the angle of the drilling. Rescuers couldn't drill vertically since that would require placing the heavy rig on the unstable ground where the cave in had happened. And the rescuers also had to avoid drilling into the production tunnels that wind above the shelter. Soto added, during the rescue, "It's a difficult hole. It's curved and deep. The hard rock has proven to be abrasive and has worn out the steel of the drill."

The fine rock debris, known as cuttings, fell down the pilot hole; an estimated 500 kilograms (1,100 lb) of rocks fell down every hour. Working in shifts 24 hours a day, the miners had to keep the passage clear with the industrial-sized battery-powered sweepers, shovels and wheel barrows trapped in the mine with them.[21] The miners had to remove on their own a total mass of drilling cuttings estimated at up to 700 metric tons (770 short tons), considering a borehole diameter of 70 centimeters (28 in), with a depth of 688 meters (2,257 ft) and a rock density of 2.7 tons per cubic meter.[22] [12]

Its first delay was caused by it hitting a metal bar in an old working and wrecking.[23] The wrecked drill bit was retrieved by sending down a steel tube called a "spider", whose end was cut into 8 long teeth. When the spider reached the obstruction, its 8 teeth went down around the drill bit, and on further pressure bent in below the drill bit, holding it, and it was hauled to the surface. The second delay was caused by the replacement drill bit wearing out. As the drill drilled down, the spoil fell down the pilot hole and the trapped miners had to clear it away, using a front loader, fueled with diesel sent down via one of the supply holes.

Plan C[edit]

2010 Copiapó mining accident

Drilling Results

Plan A, Strata 950  (85%)
 598    
702    


Plan B, Schramm T130  (100%)
 624    


Plan C, RIG-421  (62%)
 372    
597    


Operated a powerful Canadian made RIG-421 oil drilling rig operated by Calgary-based Precision Drilling Corporation. It was the last drill to be added to the rescue process and went into operation on 19 September.[84] The rig, normally used for oil and gas well drilling, could theoretically drill a wide enough escape shaft in a single pass without a pilot hole. RIG-421 is a 43 meters (141 ft) tall Diesel-Electric Triple, which needed 40 truckloads to bring its components from Iquique, Chile, to Copiapó. Chosen for the rescue operation because it can drill large holes deep into the ground and is faster than mining drills,[84][92] this plan suffered major setbacks due to the difficulty of aiming a large drill at such a small target. Furthermore, the hardness of the rock caused the drill bit to wander from its intended course and it then needed to be removed, resized and repositioned, slowing drilling progress. Many family members of the miners initially had high hopes for this rig, but it was forced to reduce its drill size and so lagged behind the other attempts.[84][93][94]

Drilling results[edit]

At 08:05 CLDT on 9 October 2010, Plan B's Schramm T130XD was the first to reach the trapped miners.[95] By 8 October, the Plan A Strata 950's pilot hole had reached only 85% of the required depth (598 meters (1,962 ft)), and had not yet started widening its shaft. Plan C's RIG-421, the only machine at the site able to drill a wide enough escape shaft without a pilot hole, reached 372 meters (1,220 ft) (62%).[84][96]

The rescue operation was an international effort that involved not only technology, but the cooperation and resources of companies and individuals from around the world, including Latin America, South Africa, Australia, the United States and Canada. NASA specialists helped develop a sophisticated health agenda. Though international participation was critical to success, overall, it was a Chilean-led team effort. As one NASA specialist said during a visit early on in the rescue: "The Chileans are basically writing the book."[84]

Extraction plans[edit]

Fénix rescue capsule[edit]

A color diagram depicting the capsule with a miner and text describing the features of the pod
Diagram of the rescue capsule "Fénix" class and the miner equipment used in the Copiapó accident of 2010 rescue.
Main article: Fénix capsules

While the three drilling operations progressed, technicians worked on building the rescue capsules that would eventually carry the miners to safety.[60][84][97] Several media organizations produced illustrations of the capsules' basic design.[98][99][100]

The steel rescue capsules, dubbed Fénix (English: Phoenix) were constructed by the Chilean Navy with design input from NASA. The navy incorporated most of NASA's suggestions and produced three rescue pods: Fénix 1, 2 and 3, all enhanced versions of the Dahlbusch Bomb used for mine rescue. Fénix 1 was presented to journalists and the miners' relatives for their assessment.[84][101][102]

The eventual capsule used to rescue the 33 men was the Fénix 2, a device 54 centimeters (21 in) in diameter, [103] narrow enough to avoid hitting the sides of the tunnel. It had retractable wheels to allow for a smoother ride to the surface, an oxygen supply, lighting, video and voice communications, a reinforced roof to protect against rock falls, and an escape hatch with a safety device to allow the passenger to lower himself back down if the capsule became stuck.[84][103]

Preparations for extraction[edit]

Although drilling finished on 9 October 2010, Laurence Golborne, Chilean Minister of Mining, announced that the rescue operation was not expected to begin before 12 October due to the complex preparatory work required on both the escape shaft and the extraction system site.[104] These tasks included a borehole inspection to determine how much of the shaft needed casing to prevent rockfalls from jamming the escape capsule. Depending on the shaft casing requirement, installation of the requisite steel pipes could take up to 96 hours. After that, a large concrete platform for the winching rig to raise and lower the capsule had to be poured while the winching rig required assembly. Finally, thorough testing of the capsule and winching system together was required.

Golborne also indicated he expected only the first 100–200 meters (330–660 ft) of the shaft to be cased, a task that could be performed in only 10 hours.[105] In the end, only the first 56 meters (184 ft) were deemed to require casing. Assembly of a safe lifting system took an additional 48 hours.[106]

Shortly before the extraction phase began, Golborne told reporters that rescuers estimated it would take about an hour to bring each miner to the surface. He therefore expected the lifting phase of the rescue operation to take up to 48 hours.[107]

Rescue Operation San Lorenzo[edit]

Picture of the first rescuer with the Chilean President and fellow rescue workers before entering the rescue capsuleále
Manuel González, the first rescuer, is preparing to descend into the San José Mine during Operación San Lorenzo

The rescue effort to retrieve the miners began on Tuesday, 12 October at 19:00 CLDT. Dubbed Operación San Lorenzo (Operation St. Lawrence) after the patron saint of miners,[79][108][109] a three-hour initial delay ensued while final safety tests were carried out. At 23:18 CLDT, the first rescuer, Manuel González, an experienced rescue expert and employee of Codelco, was lowered into the mine.[110] During the 18-minute descent, the waiting families and surface rescue team members sang the Canción Nacional, Chile's national anthem. González arrived in the collapsed mine and made contact with the miners at 23:36.

Extraction[edit]

Although Chilean officials played down the risks of the rescue, the miners still needed to be alert during the ascent in case of problems. As a result, and according to the rescue plan, the first four men to be brought up the narrow shaft were those "deemed the fittest of body and mind".[111] Thereafter they would be best placed to inform the rescue team about conditions on the journey and report on the remaining miners. Once the four men had surfaced, the rescues proceeded in order of health, with the least healthy brought up from the mine first.[112]

Procedure[edit]

Six hours before his rescue, each miner switched to a NASA recommended purely liquid diet rich in sugars, minerals, and potassium.[113] Miners also used a girdle around their waists to maintain stable blood pressure, and took an aspirin to avert formation of blood clots.[114]

Each miner was strapped into a harness inside the 21 inches (53 cm) wide bullet-shaped capsule wearing a green moisture-resistant coveralls[115] and sunglasses [116] to avoid retinal damage from initial exposure to harsh lighting on the surface. The capsule included oxygen masks, heart monitors, and video cameras.[102] Once the miner was secure inside the capsule it then ascended at a rate of 1 meter per second (2.2 mph), with an estimated travel time of 9 to 18 minutes.

When the capsule surfaced a doctor checked the miner's alertness before he was helped out of the capsule and immediately reunited with a small group of close family members to a round of applause from rescue workers, family members and observers.

Throughout the 24-hour-long operation, each miner was personally greeted by President Piñera and in many cases his wife too. After this the miner was stretchered to a field hospital for initial evaluation.[115] As none of the men needed immediate emergency treatment, each was transferred by ambulance to an office building, still on the mine premises, for a private reunion with close family members.

Finally, the miners were transferred in groups of four by helicopter to Copiapó Hospital, 60 kilometers (37 mi) away, for a 24–48 hour period of medical observation and treatment. While the previously rescued miners received medical treatment, the capsule repeated its descent in readiness to lift the next man to the surface.[115]

Rescue[edit]

Color image of the mining leader and the Chilean President leading rescue workers in a rendition of the Chilean anthem.
Luis Urzúa, the leader of the trapped miners and the last of the 33 to be lifted to freedom, celebrates with President Piñera at the San José Mine, during Operación San Lorenzo.

The original plan called for two rescue workers to descend into the mine before bringing the first miner to the surface. However, to avoid delay, rescuers decided to bring a miner to the surface in the returning capsule that had taken González down. An "empty" trial run had taken place the previous day, with the capsule stopping just 15 meters (49 ft) before the end of the shaft.[117]

After a further safety check, 15 minutes later miner Florencio Ávalos began his ascent from the mine. TV cameras both inside the mine and on the surface captured the event and broadcast it worldwide. The mine's shift supervisor, Luis Urzúa, whose disciplined leadership was credited with keeping the men alive on an emergency food supply during their first 17 days without contact from the outside world, was the last miner to make the journey to the surface.[118]

Each transit of the capsule, whether up or down, was projected to take 15 minutes,[119] giving a total time of 33 hours for the rescue operation. In practice, after the capsule's first few transits, it became apparent that the trip might be shorter than the projected 15 minutes and each rescue cycle should take less than 1 hour. As the eighteenth miner was brought to the surface, Chilean Mining Minister Laurence Golborne stated "We have advanced at a faster time than we originally planned. I foresee we might conclude the whole operation before tonight."[120]

After stepping free from the rescuers and greeting his son, Luis Urzúa embraced President Piñera saying, "I've delivered to you this shift of workers, as we agreed I would". The president replied, "I gladly receive your shift, because you completed your duty, leaving last like a good captain." President Piñera went on to say "You are not the same after this, and Chile won't be the same either."[121]

A large Chilean flag that had hung in the mine chamber during the rescue was brought up by Luis Urzúa. Once all the miners had been extracted, the rescuers in the mine chamber displayed a banner reading "Misión cumplida Chile" ("Mission accomplished Chile").[122] Manuel González was the first rescuer down and the last up, spending 25 hours 14 minutes in the mine. Rescuers needing to sleep did so in the mine to avoid tying up the capsule on rescue-delaying journeys to the surface. When the last rescuer surfaced, President Piñera covered the top of the rescue shaft with a metal lid. Altogether, Fénix 2 made 39 round trips, traveling a total distance of about 50 kilometers (31 mi).[123]

Order of miners and rescuers[edit]

The iconic image of the six rescuers displaying the famous "Mision Cumplida CHILE" (Mission Accomplished CHILE) sign in San José Mine near Copiapo, Chile[124]

Before the rescue, the trapped miners were divided into three groups to determine their exit order. From first to last these were: "hábiles" (skilled), "débiles" (weak) and "fuertes" (strong).[125] This grouping was based on the theory that the first men to exit should be those more skilled and in the best physical condition, as they would be better equipped to escape unaided in the event of a capsule malfunction or shaft collapse. They were also thought more able to communicate clearly any other problems to the surface rescue team. The second group included miners with medical problems, older men and those with psychological issues. The final group comprised the most mentally tough, as they had to be able to endure the anxiety of the wait;[126] in the words of Minister Mañalich "they don't care to stay another 24 hours inside the mine".

The exit order was as shown below.

Rescued miners (click "show" to expand the table)
Order Rescued Miner's name Age During Rescue [127] Rescue time (CLDT)[8][9] Cycle time[128] Comments[54] Film Portrayer
1 Florencio Ávalos 31 13 October 00:11 0:51 Recorded video footage to be sent up to families on the surface. He had helped to get his brother Renan a job in the mine.
2 Mario Sepúlveda 40 13 October 01:10 1:00 An electrical specialist known as "the presenter" because he acted as a spokesman and guide on videos that the miners made. He ended one video with "Over to you in the studio." Antonio Banderas
3 Juan Andrés Illanes 52 13 October 02:07 0:57 A former Chilean Army corporal who served in the Beagle Conflict, a border dispute with neighboring Argentina.
4 Carlos Mamani 24 13 October 03:11 1:04 The only Bolivian among the 33, a heavy machinery operator who moved to Chile a decade ago.
5 Jimmy Sánchez 19 13 October 04:11 1:00 Given the responsibility of checking air quality[129] and the youngest man trapped. He had only been a miner for five months and had just had a baby daughter.
6 Osmán Araya 30 13 October 05:35 1:24 In a video message he told his wife and baby daughter Britany: "I will fight to the end to be with you."
7 José Ojeda 46 13 October 06:22 0:47 Penned the famous note "Estamos bien en el refugio, los 33" (English: "We are well in the shelter, the 33"), which was discovered attached to a probe 17 days after the mine collapse.[130] He is a grandfather who suffers from kidney problems and has been on medication for diabetes.
8 Claudio Yáñez 34 13 October 07:04 0:42 A drill operator. His longtime partner Cristina Núñez accepted his marriage proposal while he was underground.
9 Mario Gómez 63* 13 October 08:00 0:56 The eldest of the trapped miners, he had been thinking of retiring that November. (Note: *Multiple reliable sources have reported his age as between 60 and 65.)
10 Álex Vega 31 13 October 08:53 0:53 Suffers from kidney problems and hypertension. Had worked in the mine for nine years. Mario Casas
11 Jorge Galleguillos 56 13 October 09:31 0:38 Suffers from hypertension.
12 Edison Peña 34 13 October 10:13 0:42 The group's song leader, he requested that Elvis Presley songs be sent down the mine. The fittest miner, he had reportedly been running 10 kilometers (6.2 mi) a day while underground. He ran in the New York City Marathon in 2010[131] and 2011,[132] and the Tokyo Marathon in February 2011.[132] Jacob Vargas
13 Carlos Barrios 27 13 October 10:55 0:42 A part-time miner who also drives a taxi and likes horse racing. He was said to be unhappy with interference from psychologists.
14 Víctor Zamora 33 13 October 11:32 0:37 A mechanic who only went into the mine on the day of the collapse to fix a vehicle. He was also in the February 2010 Chile earthquake.
15 Víctor Segovia 48 13 October 12:08 0:36 An electrician and father of four who told his family: "This hell is killing me. When I sleep I dream we are in an oven."
16 Daniel Herrera 27 13 October 12:50 0:42 Truck driver, was given the role of medical assistant in the mine.
17 Omar Reygadas 56 13 October 13:39 0:49 A bulldozer operator whose children kept a diary of their life above ground shown on BBC News.
18 Esteban Rojas 44 13 October 14:49 1:10 Told his longtime partner Jessica Yáñez that he would marry her in a church as soon as he got out.
19 Pablo Rojas 45 13 October 15:28 0:39 He had worked in the mine for less than six months when the accident happened. His brother Esteban was trapped with him.
20 Darío Segovia 48 13 October 15:59 0:31 A drill operator, he is the son of a miner, and his father was once trapped for a week underground. His sister María led prayers at Camp Hope, the makeshift settlement that sprang up at the mine's entrance. Juan Pablo Raba
21 Yonni Barrios 50 13 October 16:31 0:32 Served as the group medic and supervised their medical care.
22 Samuel Ávalos 43 13 October 17:04 0:33 A father-of-three who had worked in the mine for five months.
23 Carlos Bugueño 27 13 October 17:33 0:29 Friends with fellow trapped miner Pedro Cortez.
24 José Henríquez 54 13 October 17:59 0:26 A preacher who has worked in mining for 33 years, he had become the miners' pastor and organized daily prayers. Marco Trevino
25 Renán Ávalos 29 13 October 18:24 0:25 Trapped along with his older brother Florencio.
26 Claudio Acuña 44 13 October 18:51 0:27 Had his birthday in the mine on 9 September.
27 Franklin Lobos 53 13 October 19:18 0:27 A well known former football player known as the "magic mortar".
28 Richard Villarroel 27 13 October 19:45 0:27 A mechanic who had worked in the mine for two years.
29 Juan Carlos Aguilar 49 13 October 20:13 0:28 A married father of one.
30 Raúl Bustos 40 13 October 20:37 0:24 A hydraulics engineer who was in the February 2010 Chile earthquake. He moved north, finding work at the mine to support his wife and two children.
31 Pedro Cortez 26 13 October 21:02 0:25 Went to school near the mine. He and his friend Carlos Bugueno, who was also trapped, started work there at the same time.
32 Ariel Ticona 29 13 October 21:30 0:28 The group's communications specialist. His wife gave birth to a daughter on 14 Sep and he watched the arrival on video. He named his daughter Esperanza, which means "Hope".
33 Luis Urzúa 54 13 October 21:55 0:25 The shift foreman, known as Don Lucho by other miners, took a leading role while they were trapped and made more accurate maps of their cave for the rescue crews.

Note: Early in the disaster, the Chilean newspaper El Mercurio published a widely circulated, but incorrect, early list of the miners' names with two errors: it omitted Esteban Rojas and Claudio Acuña and wrongly included the names of Roberto López Bordones and William Órdenes. The list above is correct and up to date according to the Ministry of Mining website.[133]

Rescue workers who descended (click "show" to expand the table)
Order Descended Rescue worker[134][135][136] Affiliation[136][137] Descent time (CLDT)[135] Extraction time (CLDT)[135] Time spent inside mine[135] Cycle time[135][138] Down trip no.[135]
1. Manuel González El Teniente Mine 12 October 23:18 14 October 00:32 25:14 0:27 1
2. Roberto Ríos, Sgt Chilean Marine Corps 13 October 00:16 14 October 00:05 23:49 0:23 2
3. Patricio Robledo, Cpl Chilean Marine Corps 13 October 01:18 13 October 23:42 22:24 0:25 3
4. Jorge Bustamante El Teniente Mine 13 October 10:22 13 October 23:17 12:55 0:24 13
5. Patricio Sepúlveda, Cpl GOPE (national police medic) 13 October 12:14 13 October 22:53 10:39 0:23 16
6. Pedro Rivero Carola Mine 13 October 19:23 13 October 22:30 3:07 0:35 28

Notes:

  1. The extraction times for the rescuers are correct but may be out of order and not listed next to the actual corresponding rescue worker.
  2. "Down trip no." is the sequence number of the capsule journey that he was sent down on.

Timeline of events[edit]

2010 Copiapó mining accident timeline
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Day 01 = 5 August 2010

This is a general chronology of the events, from the beginning:

  • 5 August 2010 (2010-08-05) – Rock-fall at the San José mine in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile leaves 33 gold and copper miners trapped 2,300 feet below ground.
  • 7 August 2010 (2010-08-07) – Second collapse hampers rescue efforts and blocks access to lower parts of the mine. Rescuers begin drilling boreholes to send down listening devices.
  • 22 August 2010 (2010-08-22) – 17 days after the first collapse, a note is found attached to one of the drill bits, saying: "Estamos bien en el refugio, los 33" (English: "We are well in the shelter, the 33"). The miners were in a shelter having lunch when the first collapse occurred, and had survived on rations. Food, medical supplies, clothes and bedding began to be sent down the borehole.
  • 27 August 2010 (2010-08-27) – The miners send first video greetings to the surface.
  • 30 August 2010 (2010-08-30) – First attempt to drill a hole to rescue the men, Plan A, begins.
  • 5 September 2010 (2010-09-05) – Plan B drilling begins.
  • 18 September 2010 (2010-09-18) – Miners celebrate Chilean Bicentennial holiday underground.[139]
  • 19 September 2010 (2010-09-19) – Plan C drilling begins.
  • 24 September 2010 (2010-09-24) – Miners had now been trapped underground for 50 days, longer than anyone else in history.
  • 9 October 2010 (2010-10-09) – Plan B drill breaks through to the miners' workshop.
  • 11 October 2010 (2010-10-11) – "Fénix 2" rescue capsule is tested to ensure that it can pass up and down the newly completed shaft.
  • 12 October 2010 (2010-10-12) – Rescue begins at 23:20 CLDT.
  • 13 October 2010 (2010-10-13) – At 21:56 CLDT the last of the 33 miners is brought to the surface.[30]
  • 14 October 2010 (2010-10-14) – First three miners released from hospital.
  • 15 October 2010 (2010-10-15) – 28 more miners released from hospital, two remain for further treatment; dental and psychological follow-up.
  • 16 October 2010 (2010-10-16) – Mario Sepúlveda discharged from hospital after additional psychological tests.
  • 19 October 2010 (2010-10-19) – Víctor Zamora released from hospital after dental problems.[140]
  • 25 October 2010 (2010-10-25) – Rescued miners honored at the "La Moneda" presidential palace, met with President Sebastián Piñera, posed for pictures with the "Fénix 2" capsule and played a friendly game of football against a government team at the Julio Martínez Prádanos National Stadium.[141]

Reaction to the rescue[edit]

Color image of Chilean President Piñera and the First Lady present a souvenir gift rock from the San Jose Mine to Elizabeth II on 18 October 2010 during a state visit to the UK
President Piñera and First Lady present a souvenir rock from the mine to Elizabeth II on 18 October 2010.

Chilean President Sebastián Piñera and First Lady Cecilia Morel were present during the rescue. Bolivian President Evo Morales was also scheduled to be there but did not arrive in time to see the rescue of the trapped Bolivian miner, Carlos Mamani.[142] Morales visited Mamani at a hospital along with Piñera later in the day.[143] A number of foreign leaders contacted Piñera to express solidarity and pass on congratulations to Chile while rescue efforts were underway. They included the Presidents of Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, South Africa, Uruguay, Venezuela,[144][145] and Poland,[146] as well as the Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom,[147] Spain and Ireland, (who also wrote personally to the Chilean president and the Clare-based designers and manufacturers of the rescue drill).[148] Other foreign leaders including Mexican President Felipe Calderón[149] and U.S. President Barack Obama [149][150] praised the rescue efforts and passed on their hopes and prayers to the miners and their families. Pope Benedict XVI left a video message in Spanish praying for the success of the rescue operation.[151]

After the successful rescue, Piñera gave a speech on location in which he praised Chile, saying that he was "proud to be the president of all Chileans." He invoked Chile's recently passed Bicentennial celebrations and said that the miners were rescued with "unity, hope and faith." He thanked Chávez and Morales, amongst others, for their calls of support and solidarity. He also said that those responsible for the collapse of the mine would be punished, and that there would be a "new deal" for the workers.[152] [153]

Miners post-rescue[edit]

By 19 October, all 33 of the men had been released from the hospital. All but two of the men were allowed to go home within 48 hours of the rescue. Mario Sepúlveda remained hospitalized for further psychological evaluation over concerns that he had yet to adapt to life outside the mine, but was released on 16 October.[154] Meanwhile, Víctor Zamora remained to receive additional treatment for a dental infection and was released on 19 October.[140][155]

Health concerns[edit]

Color image of President Piñera visiting the rescued miners who are dressed in hospital robes and pajamas while seated and standing in a semi-circle in a hospital room
President Piñera visiting the rescued miners in Copiapó Hospital in October 2010

Doctors marveled at how well the men had coped physically with their time underground, but the media frenzy surrounding the men since their rescue concerned Chilean Health Minister, Jaime Mañalich. He asked the media to treat the miners "with dignity and respect", adding that they needed "rest and repose" and a chance to come to terms with the events of the last 70 days. "They are still on an emotional roller-coaster". The medical team's psychologist, Alberto Iturra, warned that the miners were exhausted, "When that happens, your sensitivity rises to the maximum at the same time as your tolerance falls to almost nothing" he stated. Regardless of these issues, President Piñera challenged the men to a friendly soccer game as well as inviting them to state functions including a visit to the presidential palace and the grand opening of a transcontinental highway.[156]

Marc Siegel, an associate professor of medicine at the New York University Langone Medical Center, said that lack of sunlight could potentially cause problems with muscles, bones and other organs. Jane Aubin, scientific director of the Institute of Musculoskeletal Health and Arthritis at the Canadian Institute for Health Research, said the miners would have to be monitored closely. "They haven't been as physically active as you would want [them] to be, so they have undoubtedly experienced some muscle loss", she said. "Probably after that extended period of time, in both a confined space and in relative darkness, they've also probably experienced some bone loss." [157] The team of psychologists who spoke to the miners daily in the mine will continue to follow their progress.[clarification needed How long for? Are they still being monitored – source required]

Officials considered canceling plans for a thanksgiving mass for the men and their families at Camp Hope, on 17 October over fears that a premature return to the site could be damaging. "It's not a good idea that they go back to the mine so soon", said psychologist Iturra.[155] Dr Jorge Díaz, head of the miners' medical team at Copiapó regional hospital said "We have a group of workers who are absolutely normal people, they weren't selected from a group of applicants to be astronauts, nor were they people who underwent rigorous tests, therefore we don't know when the post-traumatic stress syndrome can appear."[158]

Conversely, post-traumatic growth, positive psychological change experienced as a result of the struggle with highly challenging life circumstances could also result. The triumph of the miners in a highly challenging environment could also increase their self-confidence and strengthen bonds with each other and with their families. "When people are deprived ... it can be really adverse, it can really mess up a person. With these guys, they were together", said Charles Nelson, a psychologist with the operational stress injury clinic at Parkwood Hospital in London, Ontario. Peter Suedfeld, a professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia, said the men are less likely to have trouble returning to their jobs. "Sailors who have been shipwrecked, for example ... many of them go back to sea", he said. "They'll feel that they can cope with anything that comes up."[157]

Activities[edit]

On Sunday, 17 October 2010, six of the 33 rescued miners attended a multi-denominational memorial mass led by an evangelical pastor and a Roman Catholic priest at "Campamento Esperanza" (Camp Hope) where anxious relatives had awaited the men's return. Some of the rescuers who helped bring the miners to the surface also attended.[140][158] Reporters and cameras mobbed the miners prompting the police to intervene to protect them. Omar Reygadas' family was swarmed by the media after they left the service and his 2-year-old great-granddaughter started crying when pushed by the crowd. As Reygadas picked her up the cameras zoomed in. Reygadas stayed calm but offered his only answer in response to their questions: "I've had nightmares these days", Reygadas said from inside a small tent while reporters jockeyed for position, "but the worst nightmare is all of you."[159]

Based on their experience, the miners plan to start a foundation to help in the field of mine safety. Yonni Barrios said "We're thinking about creating a foundation to solve [safety] problems in the mining industry. With this, with the experience that we had had, God help us, we should be able to solve these problems." Juan Illanes told El Mercurio "We have to decide how to direct our project so this type of thing never happens again. It needs to be done, but these things don't happen quickly".[160]

On 24 October 2010, the miners attended a reception hosted by President Piñera at the presidential palace in the capital, Santiago, and were awarded medals celebrating Chile's independence bicentennial. Outside, the men posed for photographs next to the Fénix rescue capsule that had winched them to the surface, now installed in the main square in Santiago. Afterwards, at the National Stadium, the freed miners played a football match against a team that included President Piñera, Laurence Golborne the mining minister, and Jaime Manalich the health minister. Team "Esperanza" (Hope), led by Franklin Lobos, all wore the number "33", but lost 3–2 to the government team.[161]

In November 2010, miners visited Los Angeles, appearing in a taping of CNN "Heroes."[162] On 13 December 2010, 26 of the rescued miners, including Franklin Lobos, went on invitation to a Manchester United training session at Carrington, Greater Manchester in England.[163] In February 2011, 31 of the 33 miners were hosted by the Israeli Ministry of Tourism for an eight-day pilgrimage of Christian and Jewish holy sites.[164]

Legacy and aftermath[edit]

Color image of Los 33 miners attending a ceremony hosted by President Piñera at the Presidential Palace on 24 October 2010 after their rescue from the San Jose Mine
Los 33 miners attending a ceremony hosted by President Piñera at the Presidential Palace on 24 October 2010 after their rescue from the San Jose Mine

Political[edit]

Immediately following the San José mine collapse, President Piñera dismissed top officials from the Servicio Nacional de Geología y Minería de Chile (SERNAGEOMIN), Chile's mining regulatory agency and vowed to undertake a major overhaul of the department in light of the accident.[1] In the days following the collapse, eighteen mines were shut down and a further 300 put under threat of possible closure. As of December 2010[165] the San José mine's long-term future is unclear; it is currently closed and will remain in limbo for an extended period as judicial processes are followed.

On 25 October 2010, ahead of schedule, President Piñera received a preliminary report by the Commission on Work Safety established in response to the incident. The report was a direct result of the Copiapó accident and contained 30 proposals ranging from improvements in hygiene to better coordination between local regulatory authorities. Although the commission had set 22 November 2010 as the date to deliver its final report, it reported that job safety inspections in Santiago and regions throughout Chile had allowed them to obtain a clear picture of the situation earlier than anticipated. In total, the commission held 204 hearings and reviewed 119 suggestions that came from online input.[166] Throughout the incident, President Piñera stressed that cost was of no object with regard to rescuing the miners. The operation was expensive with estimates surpassing US$20 million, excluding expenses in building, maintaining and securing "Campamento Esperanza" (Camp Hope). These costs exceed the total business debt of the mine's owner, the San Esteban Mining Company, which currently stands at around US$19 million. The state mining company Codelco contributed about 75% to rescue costs with private companies donating services worth more than US$5 million.[167]

Color image ofLos 33 miners posing with the President and First Lady of Chile in the Blue Room of the Presidential Palace on 24 October 2010
Los 33 miners posing with the President and First Lady of Chile in the Blue Room of the Presidential Palace on 24 October 2010

The French credit rating agency Coface declared that the dramatic mining rescue will have a positive impact on Chile's economic reputation. "It provides to international investors an image of a country where you can do safe [sic] business", Coface's UK managing director, Xavier Denecker, said. "It gives a good impression in terms of technology, solidarity and efficiency." Coface rates countries according to the probability of private sector companies being successful. Chile holds its highest rating in South America: A2. The UK, in comparison, is rated at A3.[168]

Legal[edit]

Following the accident, a lawsuit was filed against the San Esteban Mining Company by relatives of those trapped, while a judge froze US$2 million of its assets. A lawyer for several of the miners' families described this as a refutation of the company's claims of "not having even enough money to pay salaries".[165]

On 21 October, San Esteban Mining Company Operations Chief Carlos Pinilla and mine manager Pedro Simunovic issued a signed public statement insisting that no company official "had the slightest indication that a catastrophe could occur." Miner Jorge Gallardo asserted that there was no way the owners could have been unaware of the situation since he recorded everything and his daily safety reports were signed by Pinilla in person. Rescued miner Victor Zamora commented "What made me sad was that people were dying because the company did not want to have something safer and only thought about money".[166]

Social[edit]

Hernán Rivera Letelier, a well known Chilean writer and former miner, wrote an article for the Spanish newspaper El País offering advice to the miners: "I hope that the avalanche of lights and cameras and flashes that is rushing towards you is a light one. It's true that you've survived a long season in hell, but, when all's said and done, it was a hell you knew. What's heading your way, now, comrades, is a hell that you have not experienced at all: the hell of the show, the alienating hell of TV sets. I've only got one thing to say to you, my friends: grab hold of your family. Don't let them go, don't let them out of your sight, don't waste them. Hold on to them as you hung on to the capsule that brought you out. It's the only way to survive this media deluge that's raining down on you."[169]

The UK Daily Telegraph reported that the miners have hired an accountant to ensure that any income from their new celebrity status is fairly divided, including money from expected book and film deals. The men have agreed to "speak as one" when they discuss their experiences. While still trapped, they appointed one of their group as official biographer and another their poet.[170]

As of March 2011, the first of the expected books on the rescue, Under the Earth: The 33 Miners that Moved the World is nearing completion. Another book called 33 Men, Buried Alive: The Inside Story of the Trapped Chilean Miners, by Jonathan Franklin, a writer for UK-based The Guardian, is due for release in early 2011.[171][172]

The first of many expected TV documentaries was aired by NOVA on the US Public Broadcasting System on 26 October 2010.[171][173]

Monument[edit]

Chilean President Sebastián Piñera has suggested turning Camp Hope into a memorial or museum in honor of the men.[140]

The Fénix 2 capsule used in Operación San Lorenzo has been placed in the Plaza de la Constitución, in front of Chile's presidential palace in Santiago, Chile. Currently, one of the backup capsules is in Copiapó and the other was sent to China for display in Chile's exhibit at the 2010 Shanghai Expo. Discussions are under way for a permanent display of the capsule and possibly a museum. As of December 2010, potential locations include Copiapó, the city closest to the accident site, and Talcahuano, 1,300 miles (2,100 km) to the south, where the capsules were built at a Chilean navy workshop.[174] The Fénix 1 capsule was a featured display at the March 2011 Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada convention in Toronto, Ontario, where Laurence Golborne and the rescue team were honored.[175] Since 3 August 2011, the Fénix 2 capsule is displayed at the Atacama Regional Museum in Copiapó.[176]

Film[edit]

Main article: The 33 (film)

It has been announced that a film entitled The 33, based on the events of the disaster, is to be directed by Patricia Riggen and written by Mikko Alanne and Jose Rivera. Mike Medavoy, producer of Apocalypse Now has worked with the miners, their families, and those involved to put the film together.[177] The movie will star Antonio Banderas as Mario "Super Mario" Sepulveda, the face of the public who sent videos to the rescuers to notify them about the miners' condition. The actual Sepulveda has expressed his enthusiasm and approval towards having Banderas in the role.[178] Brazilian actor Rodrigo Santoro and Martin Sheen will also star, with Santoro as Florencio Avalos, the second-in-command of the outfit and first miner to be rescued and Sheen as the father of Mario Sepulveda. The film's plot will mostly focus on the disaster and its aftermath, during which rescue teams attempt to save the trapped miners over the course of three months.

See also[edit]

  • Floyd Collins was a cave explorer who died after 14 days while trapped underground after a cave collapse in 1925. The accident scene quickly became a national media frenzy.
  • Kathy Fiscus was a young Californian toddler who died after falling down a well in 1949 and whose two-day rescue attempt was broadcast live on radio and national TV.
  • Alfredo Rampi fell down a well and died as a six-year-old in 1981 in Italy. The failed rescue attempt was broadcast live for 18 hours.
  • Jessica McClure was a Texas toddler who survived being trapped in a well for over two days in October 1987, while the rescue operation was televised live on CNN.
  • Quecreek Mine Rescue involved a successful rescue attempt of adult, professional miners using a similar rescue capsule in Pennsylvania, July 2002, to rescue a trapped mining crew.
  • Beaconsfield Mine collapse. In 2006, two of three Australian miners were rescued after two weeks underground.

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External links[edit]

Official government websites[edit]

Photos[edit]

Videos[edit]