No one will ever forget the events that took place on August 5, 2010. Many people from all around the world sat glued to their television sets watching a story that most feared would have a tragic ending. The Minera San Esteban Primera Mining Company had a job ahead of them that no company every wants to face. 33 miners were trapped in a small copper mine that had collapsed in northern Chile and they had to report this news to the families, employees, and eventually the world. The minters were trapped 300 meters below ground with very little food, oxygen or water.
The first priority was to begin search and rescue efforts to locate these men trapped in the mine and remove them as quickly as possible before there oxygen supplies were depleted. The next daunting task would be to inform the families of these men that an awful accident had taken place and the worst thing that could happen to a miner did. Rescuing these men was the very first priority of the company but keeping everyone else informed on their safety and progress was equally as important since the company had already come under fire for a collapsed mine just a year ago.
Since there were so many different groups of people involved in this accident: Family members of the trapped miners, employees of the company, media, investors and spectators across the globe; understanding of the diverse audience would be crucial in conveying the various details that would follow in the hours and days ahead. The message of the trapped miners had to be delivered appropriately to each group of people without any confusion or misunderstanding. What would you say to the wife whose husband was trapped?
How could you reassure your employees that were not trapped that they will not fall in the same fate? How could you reassure the investors that this will not happen again? With all those questions unanswered, the company brought in their spokesperson to represent them during the search and rescue of their miners. Bringing someone in to be a familiar face during this accident would bring reassurance to all parties that everything that could be done was being done. A spokesperson was also important because they would be able to convey important information and deliver messages that kept everyone informed.
Since the Minera San Esteban Primera Company had an iffy safety record over the years, which actually included some fatalities; maintaining the image of the mining company that their first priority was the trapped miners also became increasingly important. The families of the miners had to be informed first and foremost. The company had to assure the families that they would be the very first ones to be notified of any news concerning the trapped miners. They had to know that everything was being done to protect their loved one’s safety and that a plan for their rescue was in place.
As the rescue efforts continued, the families were to be kept informed. In order to ease their stress and worry, face-to-face communication was determined as the best way to bring up-to-date information. This would alleviate any anxiety felt waiting and would help to assure them that their loved ones were the first priority. A place at the scene of the accident, known as “camp hope” was set up for the families so they could wait for news from below. Each family was given a chance to see and speak to trapped loved ones, via a new fiber optic video line that snaked down to where the men were trapped.
Once the families of the miners were updated, the communication could then be shifted to the employees, who needed reassurances of their own. Mining is a very dangerous trade and they needed to know that their futures were not in danger, like their co-workers who were trapped beneath them and that they had a job to return to once this terrible ordeal was behind them. From there the community, investors and media would need to be informed on rescue efforts. Delivering this type of message could be quite difficult given the company’s past track record with regards to safety.
The media would want to get their hands on this story and pick it apart to spin a very negative picture. The company would have to realize that announcing to the world that their copper mine had collapsed would have negative consequences. Ensuring that factual information was being delivered in a timely fashion would be critical to the company’s image. To combat all the negative press, the company chose to utilize press-releases along with phone and television interviews to get news out to everyone.
The tone with which they delivered this information would also play a huge role in assuring families and spectators that everything was being handled with care and speed. At the end of this two-month rescue mission, all 33 miners had been pulled from the scene and had all survived. Chilean President, Sebastian Pinera, stated he would launch an extensive investigation into the accident (Weik, 2010). The families, workers and community of this small copper mine would be changed forever by the events that took place on August 5, 2010.
This long rescue process took careful planning and through the information provided by the company’s spokesperson to all parties involved; everyone felt as if they played a part in the rescue of these brave men. Communication One: Face-to-Face Communication with Family Members Today, August 5, 2010, we received devastating news of a collapsed mine at the San Jose Cave. 33 of our men are now trapped. A crew of men have been sent down to survey the damage and after descending over 400 meters, it was discovered that the ramps had collapsed. We are in full cooperation with investigators to find out exactly what happened.
At this time, we do not know anything about the condition of these men. Words will never be able to express how deeply saddened we are by this tragic accident. Our thoughts and prayers are with these brave men and with each one of you as well. Please be patient with us as we begin rescue efforts. We are determined to rescue all 33 men and have already contacted the Chilean government to assist with the rescue efforts. As we get information, we will personally relay that to you. In an effort to provide you with the most up-to-date information, we have established a camp where you may stay while rescue efforts continue at the mine.
I wish we had more information at this time but this is all we know. Our only priority is ensuring the safety and well-being of these men. Communication Two: Press Release As of August 5, 2011 a tragic accident occurred in one of our copper mines in San Jose, Chile. A cave-in has left 33 of our miners trapped 700 meters underground. It appears that the roof of the mine collapsed. Rescue workers and government officials have been contacted and are working diligently to locate and rescue our men. We do not know the safety of these men at this time and will work around the clock to determine this.
The rescue workers are planning to begin drilling soon to attempt to locate the 33 workers. We are cooperating fully with the Chilean government as well as the Federation of Chilean Mining Workers and the Confederation of Copper Workers. We will continue to operate the mines at this time according to the policies and procedures of these organizations (Parry & Rettner, 2010). Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the miners, families, employees and rescue workers. We will keep you all updated as we receive information.