Chile's 33 miners still not 'safe'

2012-08-05 17:32
Alex Vega, 31, was the 10th miner rescued. (Government of Chile, file)

Alex Vega, 31, was the 10th miner rescued. (Government of Chile, file)

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Santiago - Two years have passed since the day 33 workers were trapped deep inside a Chilean mine for more than two months - and many of the rescued men are still figuring out how to move on.

While a few have managed to turn their fame into success, others are still struggling to heal from the psychological trauma of being trapped in a dark mine shaft 622m below the earth's surface.

Some say that just making a living has proven difficult after the fanfare surrounding their 69-day ordeal and internationally televised rescue dissipated.

On 5 August 2010, a shaft leading to the surface at the San Jose copper and gold mine in the Atacama desert collapsed, trapping 32 Chileans miners and a Bolivian colleague inside.

A five-meter tall cross has been installed near an altar dedicated to Virgin of La Candelaria - patron saint of miners - as a memorial to the accident.

"The last time we saw each other, about 80% of us were back at work somewhere," miner Juan Illanes told AFP. He now lives in Chillan, in southern Chile, and works for a company linked to the mining industry.

Illanes said that he has found solace in the local chapter of a Sufi Muslim support group based in Cyprus.

"We do group therapy and we meet in Vallenar [in southern Chile]. The leader of the group, Abdul, has introduced us to Muslim religious education," he said, without going into details.

Illanes was joined by two other rescued miners, Omar Reygadas and Dario Segovia, and travelled to Cyprus to meet the spiritual head of the Muslim Sufi Naqshbandi Order.

Face reality

It took rescuers 17 days to drill a small shaft to establish contact, and more than two months of painstaking effort before they opened a passage way wide enough to pull them out, one by one.

"After a year of trips and television shows, but without work or income, we had to face reality," miner Pablo Rojas told the daily El Mercurio.

Miner and ex-football player Franklin Lobos told the newspaper that it has taken him "a long time to recover physically and psychologically.

"My wife and I separated for some time, and now I get angry more easily than before," he said.

Victor Segovia, who stayed in the northern town of Copiapo, near the San Jose mine, works as a driver and said he has needed therapy and medication.

Edison Pena, the Elvis Presley fan who ran the New York marathon after his rescue and sang on the US late night David Letterman comedy show, was admitted to a detox centre for his drug and alcohol addiction.

Mario Sepulveda, the charismatic "star" of the miners and the second man to be rescued, has been more successful since the traumatic experience. He gives talks at conferences in Chile and abroad.

"I work often in workshops trying to reach at-risk children, especially though sports. I also work with mining companies, on risk and prevention, to ensure that what happened to us never happens again," Sepulveda, known by his nickname "Super Mario," told AFP.

The miners have just signed a contract with a Chilean company to create a line of memorabilia branded "The Miracle 33" to be sold in the country's airports.

They said they registered their trademark after catchphrases used by them had been appropriated by other parties.

A movie about their story will start filming in November for a planned February 2013 release.

Read more on:    chile  |  chile trapped miners  |  mining

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