The miners’ families maintain their vigil outside the San Jose mine in the Atacama desert.
As they wait for their husbands, sons and fathers to be freed they have, necessarily, been busy. There have been the rescue plans to study. Households and families to support. Media to deal with. And legal action against the San Esteban mining group.
Given San Esteban’s appalling safety record, with sixteen miners dying below ground in recent years and no heed taken of demanded safety improvements, the families have an extremely strong case against the mine owners.
Brunilda Gonzalez, the mayor of nearby Caldera, estimates that each trapped miner should win around a million US dollars in compensation for their ordeal underground in the collapsed San Jose mine. The court in Copiapó, the town nearest the mine, will hear the case.
The Chilean government has already frozen the assets of the San Esteban group, estimated at $9.7 million dollars. The company has however filed for bankruptcy in a move, presumably, to avoid paying compensation.
As the legal case proceeds, so does the rescue effort. The good news for the trapped miners is that, barring unforeseen complications, the US-made T-130 drill being used to reach them is expected to break through by about mid-October.
The man leading the rescue operation, Andre Sougarret, warned that there could still be geological and engineering problems but he was optimistic about rescuing the miners in early November. “We’ve had problems in which we have had to pause the machines for more than four days at a time” he explained. “We don’t completely know the geology.”
Providing the rescue operation has a happy ending and all 33 miners are freed before Christmas, their ordeal could well turn out to be double- or treble-edged. Huge sums in compensation will be life-changing just as the psychological strain of being trapped must be. There are also reports that while the miners’ wives have, obviously, been present at the vigils by the mine, a number of alleged mistresses have also surfaced to state their emotional and/or financial interest in the drama. The media interest in the men, their wives, families and probably any proven mistresses will also increase for a time when they finally emerge, brought up into the light by the rescue capsule.
One way or another, once the miners are freed they will have to come to terms with the fact that on the August morning when they descended into the mine before the collapse, their lives were to change dramatically and for ever.