A mass and the inauguration of an exhibition in Atacama will mark the first anniversary of the collapse of the San José Mine in Chile.
The ceremony will begin at noon in the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Candelaria, patron saint of miners. President Sebastián Piñera, his wife Cecilia Morel and most of the miners will be in attendance. People involved in the rescue operation, such as lifeguards, engineers and technicians are also expected to attend.
After the ceremony, Piñera will inaugurate an exhibition titled “The Rescue that Shook the World,” when he will (at last) return the famous scrap of paper with the message in red marker written by workers, now an icon of survival and a symbol of hope.
The scrap of paper with the emblematic ” We are well on the refuge’s 33” note will be turned to the miners Luis Urzúa and José Ojeda, who will then give the note to Magdalena Krebs, the director of the Department of Archives and Museums, to be preserved and displayed to the public at the Museo Regional de Atacama .
Some politicians are refusing to attend today’s events, alleging there has not been any changes in safety regulations or government monitoring of the mining industry.
“Despite all the respect that the 33 miners deserve and all the suffering that they and this country lived through, we are not able to celebrate acts of this nature without truly bringing to justice the security and social justice issues facing the miners themselves,” said Brunilda González mayor of Calderato.
Nearly half the miners have been unemployed since the mine collapsed one year ago, most have signed up to give speeches about their experience, teamwork and persistence. Three sell fruit and vegetables in the street and four, so far, have gone back to mining.
The 33 have not seen any money from book or film deals, many have gotten by until now on the philanthropic efforts of Leonardo Farkas, the eccentric Chilean millionaire and mine owner, who wrote them checks for 5 million pesos (about $10,950), and gave each a motorcycle, but miners Claudio Yanez and Pedro Cortez have had to sell their bikes for food.
31 miners are currently suing the state for failure to properly monitor the San José mine; mayor González said they deserve every penny of the US$16 million they’re demanding as compensation from the National Geology and Mining Service (Sernageomin).
“We agree with what the miners are demanding from the state because there is a responsibility of public officials to make sure the laws are followed,” she said.
“We’re very content, very grateful to the government and the president for what they did. We filed this lawsuit so that people understand that everyone has the right to sue when things aren’t being done correctly. If a worker commits an error of this size, the company isn’t going to think twice about finding those responsible” said miner Luis Urzua, the miner that kept his team united when hope was slipping away inside the mine.
Coinciding with today’s events to commemorate the mine collapse, president Piñera’s new proposal for mining safety reform will seek approval in Congress.
If approved, the “Law of Mining Security and Institutions” will split the National Geology and Mining Service (Sernageomin) into the Superintendency of Mining and the Geological Service of Chile.
The reform seeks to double the budget for mining oversight as well as increase the number of mine supervisors; the new Superintendency of Mining will be responsible for approving new mining projects, supervising safety at mines and issue penalties to mines that fail to comply with regulations.
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