Alfonso Ávalos, Father of two trapped miners
We are all full of anguish. And very anxious to find out.
Sunday, September 22, 2:15 AM
16 hours later…
Sebastián Piñera, President of Chile
We are…we are fine, the 33 in the shelter.
So they know and they keep the information from us.
This comes today from the inside of the mountain.
I don’t think that it’s…to me that’s not right.
Surviving mining in Chile
Arnoldo Avilés, Worker from the San Esteban Mine Company
I’ve been here from the first day of the accident here in San Jose. I don’t know what the government is thinking. I don’t know if it’s just a show they’re putting on because up until right now from the very first day of the accident we have said that our fellow workers are alive.
Javier Castillo, Director of the Mining Federation of Chile
And it turns out that about two weeks ago a minister comes out crying, a minister of the republic, and his is crying and the whole world bursts into tears.
22 days of anguish
And how did we feel knowing that these guys are alive inside the mine? Seeing that our situation is so similar to that of Mexico, where 66 miners died and they sealed the mine with a capstone and left them inside. That was horrible, that act was horrible. After that happened, we were hit by another emotional shock because on August 22, when they were found alive, it was as if Chile had won the World Cup.
Many nights I dreamed of a day like this, I dreamed of that explosion of happiness, of emotion, of tears but tears of joy.
How serious was the government’s intention to get them out, independent of the condition they were in? Did they have to prove they were alive to bring in the machinery that supposedly was going to rescue them?
And I dreamed too of something that is yet to come, when we will see them leaving the mine, probably dirty, tired and thin but alive.
Manuel Riesco, Economist
This tragedy is the stage on which the country reminds itself of those that make it work, those from whose hands and from whose brains spring the riches which others enjoy, though those others are unfortunately very few.
Cristina del Carmen Núñez, Wife of trapped miner Claudio Yañez
They finally brought that machinery because we demanded it, not the government. And we pressured them so that that machinery would arrive. I believe that if we had not pressured them that machinery would not be here.
Families of trapped miners sued the San Esteban Mine Company for US$12 million and filed a similar petition against the Chilean state for fiscal mismanagement.
No, the owner of the mine has not come here, we have not seen him. The guy that came here first for a day or two I think was a worker. I don’t know, I think he was an accountant. But owners of the mine, they have not been here.
Alejandro Bohn, Owner of the San Esteban Mining Company
I would like to say in my own name and that of my partner and our entire company that we are absolutely dismayed by this situation. It’s a situation that has caused much pain.
Mr. Alejandro Bohn is a swine, a dog, a dirty bastard, he is insensitive, he is absolutely insensitive to what is happening. He looks like the world’s most relaxed person, as if nothing had happened. In 2007 we closed the two mines, San Antonio and San Jose. How did they open it? I can’t tell you because not even I can explain why they had to open those mines. They would not have had this accident that happened on August 5th.
The studies show that the mine has been safely exploited. After the findings of the geo-mechanical modeling and of the anticipated magnitudes of stress in situ, it can be concluded that the stress vectors encountered are classifiable as medium to low, a condition found in the great majority of Chile’s metal mines.
Álvaro Merino, Director, Chilean National Society for Mining Studies, SONAMI
Among our primary objectives is to report on mining developments, to represent the interests of our members, and to defend their interests with the authorities. What I mean by authorities is the executive branch and the legislative branch.
It is a situation of anti-union practices, there are too many groups, of tax evasion, of everything that labor law permits in Chile.
So, for example, with all those proposed laws related in some direct way with mining, we make our position known in the parliamentary working groups, which is precisely where the laws are made.
All, all the rules are handled in favor of business interests.
And in the case of the executive branch, we also express our views to the corresponding agencies.
These governments which came to power, shall we say, by concession and not by victory were therefore very weak governments compared with business owners, very weak compared with business owners. And so the owners did whatever they wanted. They did not respect labor laws. In Chile, labor laws are violated in ways you can’t imagine. And the miners’ reality exemplifies it but it is something that is evident in everything.
A miner trapped
These are the beds and the room that we are using up to the moment…Over there is the only object brought from outside, I am trying to find as many as possible
This is all about money. If a company has money it can cover-up the entire world if it wants to. But sadly, all these owners are like this, I mean, they have money and everything can be fixed with money. I would like to see a law made someday, I don’t know, something that would make them pay with prison…if this is…a homicide.
I’ve heard via the press, that we’ve used inappropriate pressure, something that definitely insinuates basically corruption. And I want to emphatically deny this, Mr. President. We are honest people and have never had the need nor have we considered in any way committing an illegal act to get a permit.
Not even an investigation and not just that. The history of the San Esteban mine, which was the subject of our presentation in the house of deputies, is very long, going back to 1996 and leaving a trail of death. We have suffered 7 deaths.
Rolando Gonzales (Payasito “Rolly”) entertains the children of the trapped miners
Whoever gets there first is going to get the caramels. Ready?
I decided to come here, to bring my costumes, my make-ups, and give these children joy through what I know best and that is the art of making people laugh.
To those who have prayed for the miners every night in their humble homes, to those who felt as if the pain of the families were their own.
Rolando Gonzales (Payasito “Rolly”)
I have paid for all these trips myself with the help of my family and my own funds
To each and every Chilean, I want to thank you because this has been something that shows what a united country can accomplish.
Rolando Gonzales (Payasito “Rolly”)
But we have not had any support from anyone saying: “You know what, we are going to help you, Rolly the Clown, so that you can go there and take candy and balloons or take this or for your airfare.” No.
In terms of mining legislation, we have actively participated since the first mining codes of the last century, from the 19th century up until the most recent law in 1983.
It is a constitution that doesn’t respect human rights. As a result, independent of the government in power at the moment, as they know well, if they keep using this same model, they will keep getting the same results.
Lautaro Carmona, Legislator from the Atacama Region
I would say that up to now there has been no direct debate in Congress, on executive branch projects dealing with mining issues.
We are very aware that the mine is not completely authorized to operate, very aware that we are opening the mine in the midst of an ongoing dialogue with intervention, visits and inspections by SERNAGEOMIN, step by step, not just during a brief period of 30, 60 or 90 days, but rather up to this point 11 months, almost an entire year almost entirely paralyzed.
The San Esteban Mining Company is an active member of the National Mining Society of Chile, SONAMI.
We cannot speak about that because the investigation is still underway. So, that topic no…
What is the Mining Association’s position on this accident?
No. The accident is very unfortunate but it’s a…it’s an exception…this case is an exception, not an ongoing occurrence.
But the 433 miners who’ve died in the last decade in Chile?
Uh, uh. It’s not that…
But then what topic can we talk about?
I will remind you about the topics that we had agreed on, I told you…Importance of mining, the country’s situation, the plan for…
Those topics we … they are at a different level.
For me, the inspectors turn a blind eye. I mean, for me it’s political. Political because they themselves run the country. They don’t want to invest in mine safety, which is the first thing they should do, protect the physical well-being of the workers.
Does the San Jose Mine have an internal safety regulation?
Yes, we have an internal regulation on organization, hygiene and safety.
If applied, the Code on Safety in Mining Operations would have solved the problem. The issue is how you apply it. Because we have a national political constitution that says:
“No. What rules here is freedom of work.” So if the owner does not want to apply law 276, you can just go look for work somewhere else because we are not going to change that owner.
Foreign mining companies in Chile earned 76.5 billion dollars in 5 years, on an investment of 21.8 billion dollars in 20 years.
Would you all be willing to pay taxes on excess profits from mining?
But, why not?
…it was not exactly that…
Here are the things that we had to discuss that, you can see, are seven…
Those earnings are equal to three and a half times more than everything that was invested over 40 years in Chile.
But the matter of taxes on the excess profits is, let’s say, something general.
No, but we prefer to we prefer to avoid it.
And most serious of all is that this number I’m giving you – $76 billion – is equivalent more or less to half the Chilean national budget during those 5 years. In other words, in Chile we are supporting a state and a half.
Everything that implies extra costs, obviously, that reduces the interest in activity by investors and, from that point of view, obviously, any investor for whom these costs go up in a particular project, is going to pay more attention to that investment.
Most likely if things don’t change and mining production in that zone runs out, we are going to have ghost towns and they are going to be able to write that once upon a time, there was civilization, that once upon a time in that geographic region they had the largest part of the national budget, but nevertheless that “once upon a time” could not maintain itself in the present moment for lack of political will, of development poles, of diversified production that could be done with the resources that they generated there.
In the company a worker is the same as a cog, in other words, if the worker doesn’t satisfy you, there are 5 more behind him ready to work.
María Avilés, Sister of Arnaldo
They leave home and all of a sudden you are left wondering if they will come home or not.
We make denunciations and more denunciations and that is what upsets the company…that the union doesn’t work for them. If some day I end up without work and they shut the doors on me, it is because I am doing something good for my fellow workers.
Only 13% of Chilean workers are unionized in their workplaces…A unified workers’ movement does not exist in Chile.
The mother of a young miner
Hello, my dear son. How are you?
The young miner
Good, mama, I am fine.
Family member of the young miner
Is your tooth better?
The young miner
Yes, it’s getting better. I want to tell mama that I love you very much.
Much strength, my son. We are praying to our holy, merciful father, my son, that he will do everything for us, my dear son.
It is a matter of attitude, of responsibility, of commitment that the state must have, as well as the companies.
As a result of the investigation, they concluded what I just said: that on June 16, the team that replaced the wire mesh, did not do it according to procedures. Unfortunately that same shift is the people that are trapped in the mine today, Mr. President.
Yesterday night our souls returned to our bodies. Peace of mind, as we say.
Juan Hermosilla, Family member of a trapped miner
This accident should never have occurred. The working conditions of our miners are very precarious. There is no legislation that protects the life of the miner, that protects the family.
We have learned the lesson that one learns the hard way, the difficult way, by confronting adversity.
Flor Acallaga, Family member of a trapped miner
It has been very powerful, very well managed, very well managed ideologically. I believe that it is unfair for the suffering of the workers.
And we won’t wait for such difficult moments to be so brotherly, as we like to say.
Director Verónica Insausti
Camera Carlos Tabja
Editor Cesar Moreno
Producer Yamira Alban