The tragedy with the happy ending all started August 5, 2010, when the mine collapses 33 workers are trapped at the Chilean copper mine 300 meters below the ground level. Safety codes require ladders for mines, and the miners attempted escape through the ventilation shaft system, but the ladders were missing. The mining operation soon became known as “Camp Hope,” for the next 69 days the dry, dusty, work site would be where rescue workers, officials, authorities, media, friends, and family of the trapped miners would call home.
A small copper operation in northern Chile, owned by Minera San Esteban Primera, is in what many call the driest place on earth, the Atacama Desert. Some years earlier, the mine was shut down because of several accidents, including one death in March 2007.
Later, in 2007 the mine reopened and the mine workers went back to mining the copper. In August 2010 when the accident occurred there were two groups of workers in the mine; the first group were near the entrance could escape, but the second group were so deep in the mine escape though the normal entrance was not an option.
The workers quickly went to the ventilation shaft system only to find the ladders were not in place as requested in the orders written by the federation of Chilean mining workers and the confederation of copper works when the mine reopened. By the time rescue teams could respond these shafts were not accessible because of ground movement cause by the cave-in.
“The Chilean government took over the rescue effort on the first day and poured enormous resources into the operation” (Kofman). By day two, rescuers had started drilling “boreholes” in the attempt to locate the miners and allowing listening devices to be sent down in efforts to hear if any of the miners had survived. A second collapse causes access to the lower shafts to be blocked and shut down operations. The trapped worker’s knew that rescue operations were in play because the 33 men could the noises below the ground. With limited food, water, and oxygen supplies officials are not sure if the trapped miners can survive four days in their current conditions. By day 17, eight holes had been bore using equipment that had been brought in because on site there was not ample equipment for a rescue of this magnitude.
As one of the drill bits (normally used for oil drilling) returned to surface with a note attached, stating “Estamos bien en el refugio, los 33 (English: “We are well in the shelter, the 33”) (Wikipedia, 2010). Receiving this message was the first bit of given hope to the families that the collapse mine victims’ were all alive and well. This is when all involved began to change the facility once known as “San José” to Camp Hope. To this point in the rescue operations little talk of survival is the conversation, and this is to prevent false hope or any media mishaps. The authorities had given special thought and considerations to all persons involved in the tragedy. Many times is area’s such as Copiapo, Chile, the miners, the company’s administrative workers, and rescue personal are either friends or family, so by keeping this in mind the communications had to project that efforts to rescue would not cease until all hope is lost. Preparations for the rescue of the survivors were in operations, and the workers and the family members of the trapped miners needed refuge.
Tents and shelters were set-up and become home as authorities announced the rescue could take several months. During the first 17 days, three plans have been put into place, in the rescue operations. All three of the plans worked in grand scheme of the rescue, in order for the trapped miners to survive this long a plan of survival had to come to play. A trapped shift-supervisor took on the role as survival leader, and gathered the men in a secure room, organizing their supplies with the intent that the few resources they had must last if they were to survive the rescue. Luis Urzula in a position of authority, and the men’s trust Urzula he explains ratios and organizes skilled men to go out into the mine shafts to assess the situation. Finally, workers’ from above can secure two holes, only six inches in diameter, but with the help of what is known as paloma, everything needed by the men below could be sent. Clothing, food, water, medicine, and sleeping supplies could be sent to the men.
The items meant more than just survival, the items helped to establish trust that survival was possible. In the days to follow a small fiber optic video line is snaked down to the men. Each family is given the chance to see and speak to their loved ones; the ability to send and receive messages they receive encouragement. As the end of the month of August grows near, Plan A and Plan B toward rescue are in full operations. The trapped workers now have electricity, running water, fresh air, and the fiber optic video cable that allows the men to watch live soccer through their tiny TV, reported ABC News.
Each of the men was allowed five minutes per day to communicate with their families and open-communications with the rescues. The once completely hopeless situation for all the company’s employees and the rescue worker, whether this is the professionals or the friends and families, they now feel the cohesion of the rescue efforts. In all of the communications questions were allowed and encouraged to ensure operations below and above ground were in complete collaborations for the efforts of the success in the rescue and to rejoin these families.
September passed and October arrives, the rescue mission continues, in the time that has passed the assembly of people gave considerable care, and thought to each member of the rescue operation. Over the past 60 days, by establishing, a record level of compassion is felt, and a bond grew to encourage hope. Finally, on October 12, 2010 the first of the 33 miners was brought up in a rescue capsule, and almost 24 hours later the last trapped miner was brought to safety. The entire group of rescued miners underwent medical and psychological evaluations; within seven days of the rescue all 33 were home with their families.
Sherwell, Philip. (2010). 2010 Copiapó mining accident. Retrieved on April 21, 2011. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_Copiap%C3%B3_mining_accident
Weik, J. (2010, August 6). Over 30 workers trapped after Chilean copper mine collapse. Metal Bulletin Daily, (224), 65.
Kofman, Jeffery. (2010). Trapped: Inside the Chilean Mine Collapse. Retrieved on April 19, 2010.