Most recently we were all glued to our computers or television sets watching in wonderful amazement at the rescue of the 33 miners that were trapped in Chile. It was hours of repeated solidarity, love, hope, determination and commitment. It was as if for those tense hours we were all Chileans, or at least we all felt the same exhilarating feelings of a new beginning, a chance for life, the great reunion. Through all this it was obvious that every Chilean was determined to see that all those miners trapped underground were rescued, even if there was anxiety, trepidation and contention if the return would be to the wife or the sweetheart. All Chileans just wanted them out alive and well.
Someone may say, well every country is committed to their citizens and would like all their citizens safe, but I say a country’s commitment will always show in their level of investment when there is no crisis, and also how they conduct business in disaster situations. Chile is not the richest country in the world, although much to their credit they have a pretty good Transparency international world corruption index. Its Corruption Percentile Index (CPI) of 7.2, is higher than that of the United States of 7.1 for 2010. Maximum possible score on the CPI is 10. A score of 10 indicates a country more or less free of corruption. This is a good indication of the level of respect they have for each other in conducting business. They seem to have managed their resources well and have created ties with other countries to the benefit of their people.
During the rescue crisis, the president of Chile did not just turn up make a great speech and returned home. He stood there with his wife and hugged and cheered every miner that came up that shaft. He spoke with them in personal terms, referring to their love ones by name, and letting each and everyone of those miners know that he was with them. The other thing that struck me was that the president was obviously emotional and moved by his contact with his people. He showed that he was commitment to those miners and he was not going anywhere until all of them came out.
But what do other countries do during crisis. I remember not too long ago a pretty well established country had a popular city, that had a big flood, down south, in a place of music, food and the location for all those revelers of Mardi Gras, oh yes, New Orleans. We did not handle this situation well. There was lack of planning from the local authorities all the way up to the federal level. Its as if the citizens of the land of the brave and the free, were weak and trapped without hope. It was truly sad. If it makes us feel good we can single out the President to blame, although clearly his leadership was sorely lacking, but truth be told all authorities involved were partly to be blamed even at the local government where the mayor who would have us think he was down with the people seem to have had his head stuck in not so good a place. The United States I think is one of the greatest countries on earth, and it has shown in the past time and time again, deep commitment for its people in its laws, human rights, infrastructure and education, however with the New Orleans event, we all must agree, if we do not want to see it repeated, that on that occasion, it was a failure. Basically, lack of planning, lack of commitment.
There was also another incident in another country, of a mining disaster, where many days went by and the folks on the surface kept asking, what are we gonna do?. There was lack of a government plan to get the miners out or to look for them. The answer kept coming back, we don’t know where they are or if they are alive. Remember those 17 days back in Chile, Chileans could have easily given up. They could have easily said, we have not made contact so they are assumed dead. It would have been reasonable after all, we as ordinary citizens depend on the authorities to inform us, and if they say its over, then its over. But, after 17 days of perseverance, hope became reality for the lives that existed underground. They were lucky to be in a country that was committed to each of them.
Talk is cheap. Countries committed to miners and workers in high risk situations, investment resources ahead of time to get their citizens out. There is another trait that I look for and is key to the level of commitment a country has for its people, and that is their accountability to quickly acknowledge that something terrible happened and their willingness to ask for help, if they do not have the resources and equipment to get their people rescued. Chile did exactly that. They asked for help, they used all the expertise they had, they informed the world via cable, satellite, and the internet in their language and English of every step of the process. They did not care about political fall outs, perceptions or pride, they wanted their miners out, that was all that mattered.
So with each mining disaster, I look to see the accountability, the response, the commitment of the country to its citizens, who are in dire need of its help. Yes, mining rescues are a great reflection on a country, but as you might have guessed it, not just mining rescues but any disaster will test a country’s commitment to its citizens.