On Aug. 5, 33 miners in the San José copper mine in the Atacama desert found themselves trapped in a collapsed shaft 2,300 ft. (700 m) under the earth. The 69-day subterranean vigil that followed was the year's global suspense drama, feel-good story and soap opera all rolled into one. Overnight the miners became national heroes, grainy images of them huddled underground appearing on front pages worldwide. Soon a rapt international audience learned of boreholes, rescue capsules and the miners' private lives (mistresses included). The miners' cinematic release, broadcast live, provided mesmerizing, better-than-fiction viewing as each of the brave men emerged from the bowels of the earth to the embraces of teary-eyed family members and smiling Chilean President Sebastián Piñera. Somewhat lost in the miracle of their survival were the stories of the hundreds of miners each year who aren't so lucky just months after the rescue, a similar collapse killed 29 miners in New Zealand.
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