A brief look: One year on, the Chilean miners live in the shadow of poverty and memory

By Khadija Patel 5 August 2011

A year after their ordeal began, they are said to have acquired a taste for the high life, but most of the 33 Chilean miners who were trapped underground for 69 days last year remain impoverished and unemployed. By KHADIJA PATEL.

As well as struggles against financial problems, many of the miners continue to suffer from the physical or psychological effects of the ordeal. Seven of them are currently on sick leave, suffering mainly from sleep problems and post-traumatic stress disorder. Another 14 of them have lodged requests for early retirement.

The miners have also diversified in their choice of work. According to media reports citing Chile’s El Mercurio newspaper, seven of the men have used their experience to become motivational speakers and another five now earn their bread by selling groceries.

The experience of being trapped underground for two months that ensnared the world’s attention last year, continues to loom large in the lives of the miners.  Thirty-one of the miners have pursued legal action against Chile’s national geology and mining service, the government agency in charge of mine supervision. If the litigation action is successful it could see each miner receive $515,000 in compensation.  Whatever the outcome of the legal action, the miners’ financial woes are set to soon ease when the proceeds of the book and film deals they’ve signed begin to bear fruit. 

The first anniversary of the collapse of the mine will be hailed with the opening of a multimedia exhibition on the rescue operation at the Smithsonian National Museum of National History in Washington, DC.  The Smithsonian exhibit will include one of the rescue capsules that brought the miners back to the surface, as well as personal mementos and stories from the miners. DM

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Photo: The Phoenix rescue capsule is prepared for its 18th journey to the surface with trapped miner Esteban Rojas from the collapsed San Jose mine in Copiapo in this October 13, 2010 video frame grab. REUTERS/Chilean Government Video.


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