Wednesday, Dec. 07, 2011

Chilean Miners vs. Government

It was the miraculous rescue seen 'round the world, as each of 33 miners slowly rose to the Earth's surface last October. The last one to emerge was greeted by the Chilean president. Major celebration ensued. But soon the jubilation turned to recrimination, when 31 of the miners slapped a lawsuit against the Chilean government in July, seeking $541,000 in damages per miner, claiming that lax regulations had led to their ordeal. "We want what we went through at the bottom of that mine to be recognized," said one miner, Luis Urzua. The government fired back, explaining that their inspections were up to standards. "The problem was that the owners did not do what they were told to," said Mining Minster Laurence Goldborne. "Not because it was too expensive or they were greedy, but just because they didn't care." But the government quickly drafted the strongest mine-overhaul legislation in three decades, nearly tripling the number of mine inspectors. While many miners are struggling financially and psychologically, it will be years before they see a dime from the lawsuit. But their primary goal, miner Omar Reygadas said, was "to set a precedent so this won't happen again." And they're on the right track: Chile had just 12 mining deaths in the first half of this year, compared to 27 in the first half of 2010.