Los 33: Chilean miners face up to a strange new world
July 17, 2011 12:44 PM   Subscribe

Los 33: Chilean miners face up to a strange new world "The rescue of 33 miners from Chile's San José mine after 69 days trapped underground was a triumph shared with the whole world. But the transition back to normality is proving difficult for both the men and their families."
posted by nooneyouknow (21 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
When Lilly arrived at the mine that first evening, she found the first rescue teams emerging, having found no way through to the trapped men. "It was chaos. No one knew what was going on." The mine administrators on the surface were not even sure quite how many people had been trapped. Lilly knew from Mario's stories of the day-to-day inefficiencies of the mine that it was badly run: "I trusted no one." As soon as she arrived, she sensed that rescue teams might pull out, insisting that no more could be done.

She felt that if the managers were constantly cutting corners on safety, they would hardly commit easily to the possible costs of a full-scale rescue and all that might involve. Apocryphal stories of how miners are simply left to die after an accident are commonplace across Latin America. So Lilly and the other relatives who had made it to the mine "picked up sticks and bars", confronted the police and blocked the road. "We knew that if they [the rescuers] left, then it would all be over. So we begged the rescue teams not to abandon us, but to help us put pressure on the managers who were there."
Wow.
posted by memebake at 12:55 PM on July 17, 2011 [20 favorites]


Thank you. Too often we don't follow up and have no idea what happened in 'daily life' after the drama is over.
posted by infini at 1:16 PM on July 17, 2011


Six months ago I took a gig consulting for a mining company in a role that touches directly on worker safety. My support has been entirely focused on a few sites that are either open pit or processing facilities, but I can't begin to tell you how much I'm dreading getting out to my client's underground sites*. The idea that someday I could have personal investment in a situation like this or, god forbid, what happened at Pike River, scares the living shit out of me.

*I should add that my client has no track record of cutting corners with safety or engineering, and a collapse of any sort is highly unlikely. It's the perceived danger and the aftermath of a worker fatality (or, god forbid, fatalities) that gives me heartburn.
posted by GamblingBlues at 1:27 PM on July 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


I really enjoyed reading this; as was said, we rarely get to follow up on stories like this.

It's a shame it wasn't the "happily ever after" we like to assume, but I imagine it rarely is.

I wonder how different things would be (or if they would be different at all) if this happened in the U.S.
posted by DMan at 1:59 PM on July 17, 2011


Lilly Ramirez sounds like an admirable woman.
posted by Phire at 2:02 PM on July 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


"I wonder how different things would be (or if they would be different at all) if this happened in the U.S."

Both Canada and the US have federal and state mining safety regulatory agencies and legislation that require mine owners/operators to follow modern mine engineering practices, both for mine design and construction, and for worker safety. However, blatant violation of safety rules appears to have been a major factor in all of the most recent disasters:
Westray Mine Explosion (Nova Scotia): On Saturday, May 9, 1992, a methane gas, and subsequent coal dust explosion at 5:18 a.m. ADT killed 26 miners.

The company was charged with 52 non-criminal counts of operating an unsafe mine under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, 34 were subsequently stayed by the court. In 1993, the remaining non-criminal charges were stayed by Crown prosecutors, who expressed concern they might jeopardize future criminal charges. Two of the mine's managers, Gerald Phillips and Roger Parry, were charged with 26 accounts of manslaughter and criminal negligence causing death.

Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster: In 2009, the company, Massey Energy, was fined a total of $382,000 for "serious" unrepentant violations for lacking ventilation and proper equipment plans as well as failing to utilize its safety plan properly.[23] In the previous month, the authorities cited the mine for 57 safety infractions.[24] The mine received two citations the day before the explosion and in the last five years has been cited for 1,342 safety violations.

The Sago Mine disaster was a coal mine explosion on January 2, 2006, in the Sago Mine in Sago, West Virginia, USA near the Upshur County seat of Buckhannon. The blast and ensuing aftermath trapped 13 miners for nearly two days with only one miner surviving.

In 2005, the mine was cited by the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) 208 times for violating regulations, up from 68 in 2004. Of those, 96 were considered S&S (significant / serious and substantial).
posted by sneebler at 2:26 PM on July 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


60 Minutes did a story on exactly this subject months ago. You can watch it (free) here:


posted by stevenstevo at 3:01 PM on July 17, 2011


http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7346835n&tag=contentMain;contentBody
posted by stevenstevo at 3:01 PM on July 17, 2011


I wish I could remember what CBC Radio show did a follow up report on the minors and how they are adapting. Apparently finding work has been quite challenging as mining is the only trade a lot of them know, and none of them can bring themselves to go back in a mine (Something that I don't blame them for one bit- I know I'd never go back down again).
posted by Canageek at 3:07 PM on July 17, 2011


This article is amazing, full of bits which I didn't know before about the situation.

There should be a whole series of films made about this incident, focussing on various aspects of the entire ordeal. Lilly's story is captivating. I'm sure that other prismatic views at the events would be equally intense -- the government's story, the drilling teams, the miners themselves.

If there's ever been an event which could (and maybe should) be examined through multiple lenses, it's likely this one.

Thanks so much for posting. I'm all goosebumpy reading this article, and it's exactly what I needed somehow on this Sunday afternoon.
posted by hippybear at 4:12 PM on July 17, 2011


TheZimp's Halloween costume.
posted by cjorgensen at 4:17 PM on July 17, 2011


The story of the women fighting for the rescue to happen is heartbreaking. How horrible to have had to fight that fight.
posted by jacquilynne at 4:32 PM on July 17, 2011


I can't begin to understand what has made Ariel Ticona get a job again at a mine, possibly underground and not working only on surface tasks (no details on this). To me, nothing but desperation could explain this kind of behavior, and barely so.

Also, this is really a very good article.
posted by elpapacito at 5:08 PM on July 17, 2011


I can't begin to understand what has made Ariel Ticona get a job again at a mine, possibly underground and not working only on surface tasks (no details on this). To me, nothing but desperation could explain this kind of behavior, and barely so.

It could also be that he enjoys working underground and feels he has skills which can best be applied by doing work in a mining company.

Or it could be that he's a touch agoraphobic, and he prefers working in enclosed spaces.

Or it could be that there's an atmosphere engendered amongst mine workers which works well with his personality.

Why is it so difficult for you, specifically, to project into the possibilities of what might lead someone back into a kind of work which has been hazardous for that individual in the past? Just because you might make different choices than the person in question shouldn't make it so impossible for you to come up with reasons why choices other than the ones you'd make might be made by someone. Even choices which don't spring out of desperation.
posted by hippybear at 5:16 PM on July 17, 2011


hippybear: everything you said is possible, but how likely is that? How were the emotions he very likely has felt during the ordeal so "easily" ...forgotten? Removed? Discounted?Afaik the fear of death and/or pain is a common trait among humans, or self-preservation. Clearly he could be agoraphobic, but that I wonder how does he manage to cope when on the surface, if his agoraphobia can overrun the self conservation instinct, now that he have had an hands-on experience of how it feels like, as opposed to imagining how it may feel like to get stuck in a mine?

And last but not least, assuming that this was a theoretical pure free will choice, with an acutal choice as opposed to a false choice, didn't he take in consideration the (very likely) fact that his family/relatives quite likey don't want him to go back again, as the article suggest?
posted by elpapacito at 5:36 PM on July 17, 2011


All I can say is, at this point in my life, I've learned never to question the motivations of others. People make choices which make no sense to me, but that doesn't mean they don't make sense to the choosers. Even under duress, a person makes the choice which seems best at the time.
posted by hippybear at 5:57 PM on July 17, 2011 [6 favorites]


No doubt about that, I am not about judging, but rather understanding.
posted by elpapacito at 6:20 PM on July 17, 2011


It's strange to me that an article titled "Chilean miners face up to a strange new world" would have so little talk about the actual miners.

This article seems to focus almost exclusively on the plight of the miner's partners during and after the accident. It's interesting to hear the story told from a different perspective, but the article seems to paint the partners as the true heroes and true victims.

Comments like:

"Though no more than an irregular jogger before the accident,"

"He has frittered much of the money away partying with his brother"

"They promised they would be better husbands and fathers, better people. No doubt they meant it."

"Mario promised Lilly that they would get married. Two wedding dates have come and gone. The promise remains unfulfilled."

"The bonds of friendship and solidarity they forged down the mine are now stronger than those with their own families."

"Their wives and partners have to live with them"

"A couple of the miners have grabbed their 15 minutes of fame and run with it."

"His partner, Angélica, and her four-year-old child have had their life in Copiapó uprooted to try to keep up with him"

Seem strangely disparaging when talking about these miners. I doubt it is the writers intent to vilify the miners, but it's really strange that they need to question their commitment to jogging, their camaraderie, or imply they have broken their promises to be "better husbands and fathers, better people".
posted by rcdc at 6:29 PM on July 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


> what might lead someone back into a kind of work which has been hazardous for that individual in the past?

My conjecture - he returned into the mines, believing that this sort of event will not happen again to him in this lifetime. It may be as simple as that. Also, lack of opportunities in other occupations.
posted by seawallrunner at 9:38 PM on July 17, 2011


This article seems to focus almost exclusively on the plight of the miner's partners during and after the accident. It's interesting to hear the story told from a different perspective, but the article seems to paint the partners as the true heroes and true victims.

Let me put it this way. The miners' SO's have already proved once that they can turn a media story in their favour. :)

I say this without cynicism or to minimize their, or the miner's, plight of course; it's possible to talk about story-telling separate from the actual story. But as media skills go, they are clearly media-savvy; you only need to see the BBC documentary on which this piece is based on to appreciate that.
posted by the cydonian at 11:34 PM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Very interesting article, thanks. Lots to mull over here. Fame is a two-edged sword, for sure.
posted by kinnakeet at 6:41 AM on July 18, 2011


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