Copiapó, Chile mining accident: in depth

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Rescue efforts in the San José Mine, on August 10.
Image: desierto_atacama.

The rescue of the Chilean miners trapped in the San José Mine in Copiapó, codenamed Operación San Lorenzo (San Lorenzo Operation), began on Tuesday night, at around 20:00 local time (23:00 UTC).

Florencio Ávalos was the first miner to be rescued, at 00:12 local time (03:12 UTC) on Wednesday. He was wearing a shirt signed by all his fellow miners. "The first miner is already with us. We saw it all, him hugging his wife Monica and his son Byron," said President Piñera shortly after the first rescue. "We still have a long journey."

"This will be recorded on every single Chilean heart forever," Piñera added. "I hope the miners' hope stay with us, just like the [February] earthquake victims' [hope] and what the earthquake took off. We know that the disasters unite us all."

All the 33 miners were rescued. The last miner, Luis Urzúa, was rescued at 21:55 Chile time (00:55 UTC). "It is a pleasure to be Chilean, [I'm] proud," said Luis Urzúa to President Piñera. "In honour of the miners, their families, the rescuers [...] let's sing our national anthem. Viva Chile Mierda!," said Piñera. Urzúa thanked Mining Minister Golborne and the First Lady Cecilia Morel for "fighting for their lives." "I'm proud of my fellow miners," Urzúa added.

Six rescuers, including a miner and a paramedic, descended to the miners' shelter using the Fénix 3 capsule which was specially constructed for the rescue. They performed check-ups and talk with the miners before taking them back to the surface. The rescuers still don't leave the mine.

The Fénix 3 capsules are 3.95 metres in height and weigh about 460 kilograms. They have an armour, an oxygen tube and a microphone. The occupants helmets contain an intercom to keep them in contact with the rescue team on the surface.

President of Chile Piñera assisted to the rescue. Bolivian President Evo Morales could not attend Carlos Mamani's rescue. Mamani is the only Bolivian miner in the group.

A mass for the miners was conducted at 18:00 local time (21:00 UTC). The rescue takes between 15 and 20 minutes for each miner.

On Tuesday, Mayor of Copiapó Maglio Cicardini announced that the municipal schools in the city will have no classes this Wednesday "to transform the rescue of the Atacama's 33 in a familiar meeting," Radio Cooperativa reported.

"The miners will be taken to the Copiapó Regional Hospital for medical checkup, where they will have to stay for 48 hours," Health Minister Mañalich said to Televisión Nacional de Chile.

Celebrations are taking place in several Chilean cities. In Santiago de Chile, people gathered in one of the most important points of the city, Plaza Italia. In Pichilemu, tens of cars are passing over its most important streets. In Copiapó, people gathered in its main square to assist a massive concert.

Background

Rescue worker Patricio Sepúlveda inside the Fénix capsule, before descending to the miners' shelter.
Image: Hugo Infante / Government of Chile.

On August 5, 33 miners were trapped more than 700 meters (2,300 ft) underground, in the San José copper–gold mine, located about 40 kilometers north of Copiapó, Chile.

The youngest trapped miner is 19 years old, and the oldest is 63. There were several rescue attempts before reaching the miners' shelter on August 22. The National Emergencies Office of Chile (ONEMI) released a list of the trapped miners on August 6, which included Franklin Lobos Ramírez, a retired footballer.

Chile is the worlds top producer of copper, according to The Economist. The San José Mine is owned by the San Esteban Mining Company (Empresa Minera San Esteban). The mine was closed down in 2007, after relatives of a miner who had died sued the company executives, but the mine was re–opened in 2008.

It was originally estimated that "it would take three to four months to complete the rescue of the trapped miners". There were three plans to reach the miners: "Plan A" using a Strata 950 drill, "Plan B" using a Schramm T130XD drill, and "Plan C" using a RIG-422 drill. The first to reach the miners was "Plan B", early on Saturday 9.

The last step of their rescue, announced by Health Minister Jaime Mañalich, was originally due to begin on Tuesday. Laurence Golborne, Minery Minister said "If it is possible, and the cement sets before and we don't have any impediments to doing it, it would be wonderful," in a press conference on Monday. The men will be extracted in a steel rescue capsule 54 cm (21 inches) in diameter.

On September 4, Chilean filmmaker Rodrigo Ortúzar announced plans to film a movie about the accident, called "Los 33" ("The 33"). The film will be released in 2011.

The miners

One miner is Bolivian, and the other 32 are Chilean.

Raúl Bustos

Raúl Bustos, 40 years old, is an hydraulics engineer. He left his job in Talcahuano after the February 27 earthquake to work in the mine.

Daniel Herrera

Daniel Herrera after his rescue.
Image: Hugo Infante / Government of Chile.

Daniel Herrera, 27 years old, is a lorry driver. He has acted as paramedic assistant in the mine. He said to La Tercera "the miners were unhappy with the psychologist in the rescue team."

Claudio Acuña

Claudio Acuña, miner, is fan of the Colo-Colo football club. The BBC reports he is aged 56, but El Comercio says he is 44.

Pedro Cortez

Pedro Cortez is aged 24. He joined the mine with his friend Carlos Bugueño. Cortez is an electrician, and lost a finger in the mine a year ago.

Juan Aguilar

Juan Carlos Aguilar after he was rescued with President Sebastián Piñera. Aguilar's shirt says "In his hand are the depths of the earth. And the heights of the hills are his;" "His is the Honor and the Glory."
Image: Hugo Infante / Government of Chile.
(Image missing from commons: image; log)

A native of Los Lagos, Juan Aguilar is 49 years old. Aguilar is married to Cristy Coronado, according to El Comercio. Aguilar works as a supervisor.

Mario Sepúlveda

Mario Sepúlveda is a 39 years old electrician native of Parral; he is married. He has been the spokesman of the most of the miners' videos. Mario Sepúlveda was the second miner to be rescued, on Wednesday at 01:10 local time (04:10 UTC).

Víctor Zamora

Víctor Zamora is a 33 years old auto mechanic. Zamora is married to Jéssica Cortez, who confirmed she was pregnant while he was in the mine.

Osman Araya

Osman Araya is 30 years old, and married. He began working as miner four months before the accident.

Florencio Ávalos

Florencio Ávalos was the first miner to be rescued.
Image: Government of Chile TV.

Florencio Ávalos is 31 years old. He is the brother of Renán Ávalos, who is also trapped in the mine. He worked as driver in San José. Ávalos filmed videos, sent later to his relatives.

Ávalos was the first miner to be rescued, on Wednesday at 00:10 local time (03:10 UTC).

Jorge Galleguillos

Jorge Galleguillos, 56 years old, has worked all his life in the mine. He said in one video he was feeling unwell; he takes medication for hypertension.

Carlos Barrios

Carlos Barrios is a 27 years old miner. His father, Antenor Barrios, told Agence France-Presse: "I find he's very strong and has enthusiasm. He spoke loud and clear. I was excited."

Franklin Lobos

Franklin Lobos shortly after his rescue.
Image: Gabriel Ortega / Government of Chile.

Franklin Lobos Ramírez is a 53 years old retired footballer. He played for Cobresal, Deportes Antofagasta, Club de Deportes Santiago Wanderers and Unión La Calera, and briefly for the Chile national football team. Lobos had worked as a truck driver in the mine.

Yonni Barrios

Yonni Barrios, called "The Doctor", is a 50 years old electrician. He has knowledge of first aid, and was given responsibility for monitoring the health of his colleagues. "I felt I was in hell," Barrios said in a letter to his wife.

Carlos Bugueño

Carlos Bugueño, 27 years old, joined the mine with Pedro Cortez. Previously, he worked as a watchman.

Alex Vega

Miner Vega after being rescued at 08:53 local time (11:53 UTC).
Image: Hugo Infante / Government of Chile.

Alex Vega Salazar is a 31 years old heavy machinery mechanic. He is married to Jessica Salgado, and celebrated his birthday in the mine on September 22.

Ariel Ticona

Ariel Ticona is a 29 years old miner. His wife, Margarita gave birth to his daughter on September 14. She was named Esperanza (Hope), at Ticona's request.

Richard Villarroel

Richard Villarroel is a 27 years old mechanic from Coyhaique.

Edison Peña

Edison Peña is a 34 years old miner. "I want to go out soon," he said on his first contact with his relatives. "I want to be free, I want to see the sun," he added. He is a fan of Elvis Presley.

Claudio Yáñez

Claudio Yáñez is 34 years old, and works as drill operator.

José Ojeda

José Ojeda leaving the Fénix capsule.
Image: Hugo Infante / Government of Chile.

José Ojeda, 46 years old, is the master driller. Ojeda is widowed and diabetic.

Luis Urzúa

Luis Urzúa is a 54 year old topographer. He is the shift-leader, and was the first miner to talk with authorities. He is known as Don Lucho among the miners. He draw plans of the area of the mine where they are trapped.

Urzúa will be the last miner to leave the mine.

José Henríquez

José Henríquez is a 54 years old drill master. He is also an evangelical preacher, and has worked in mines for 33 years.

Víctor Segovia

Víctor Segovia was the fifteenth miner to be rescued.
Image: Hugo Infante / Government of Chile.

Víctor Segovia is a 48 years old electrician. He is in charge of writing down everything that happens in the mine.

Pablo Rojas

Pablo Rojas is a 45 years old explosives loader. Married, he had been working less than six months in the mine.

Juan Illanes

Juan Illanes is a 51 year old miner. He was a sergeant in the Beagle border conflict between Chile and Argentina in 1978, the incident which almost provoked a war between the countries.

Illanes was rescued on Wednesday, at 02:07 local time (05:07 UTC).

Jimmy Sánchez

Jimmy Sánchez, 19, is the youngest miner. He had been working in the mine for five months before the accident. His role is to check the temperature and humidity in the mine.

Samuel Ávalos

Samuel Ávalos is a 43 years miner. His wife Ruth said "he was addicted to the cocaine." His role in the rescue is to check air quality in the area the miners are living. According to the BBC, "Ávalos has worked in the mine for five months."

Mario Gómez

Mario Gómez, the oldest miner was rescued at 08:00 local time (11:00 UTC).
Image: Hugo Infante / Government of Chile.

Mario Gómez, aged 63, is the oldest of the miners. He has worked 51 years as miner. His father was also a miner, and is nicknamed "El Navegao" ("The Sailed One"). He was thinking of retiring in November.

Gómez also wrote the message "Estamos bien en el refugio los 33" ("We are fine in the shelter the 33 [of us]").

Darío Segovia

Segovia is 48 years old. He is married to Jessica Chille, who said "To hear his voice was a confort to my heart," after talking with him for the first time in 24 days. His sister María, was nicknamed "La Alcaldesa" ("The Mayoress") for her leading role at Campamento Esperanza. His father, Darío Senior, was trapped in a mine for a week, and suffered serious injuries after two other mining accidents, according to the BBC.

Carlos Mamani

Carlos Mamani is a 23 years old heavy equipment operator. He is also the only non-Chilean miner; Mamani is Bolivian. He began working in the mine just five days before the accident.

He was rescued at 03:11 local time (06:11 UTC) on Wednesday.

Renán Ávalos

Renán Ávalos after his rescue.
Image: Gabriel Ortega / Government of Chile.

Renán Ávalos is a 29 years old miner, single, who had been working for five months in the mine before the accident. Florencio Ávalos is his brother.

Omar Reygadas

Omar Reygadas is a 56 year old electrician. He began working in the mine shortly before the accident.

Esteban Rojas

Esteban Rojas is a 44 years old miner. Rojas is married to Jessica Yáñez.


Related news

Sources

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