All 33 of the miners who were trapped in Chile’s San José mine have been safely lifted to the surface, as have the six rescuers who descended into the mine during the operation. Shift supervisor Luis Urzua was the last miner lifted to safety in the specially designed capsule that traversed the more than 2,000 feet between the miners’ refuge and the surface.
The miners’ survival for 69 days underground and their triumphant rescue is a story of fortitude, ingenuity, and teamwork. Chileans have much to be proud of and celebrate today. Audiences around the world have been watching the rescue operation — which also involved assistance from international experts — and celebrating along with Chile.
As awe-inspiring as this story is, those involved haven’t forgotten that it would’ve been better if it had never happened at all. After Urzua had embraced his son and President Sebastián Piñera and made a brief speech of thanks, he shook hands with Mining Minister Laurence Golborne and said he hoped this wouldn’t happen again.
In a press conference following Urzua’s return to the surface, President Piñera responded to a reporter’s question by promising that in a few days he would announce a new contract with all Chilean workers to improve their conditions. (This follows an investigation into working conditions that’s been going on for the past 60 days.) In an interview with a Television Nacional reporter later on, Piñera promised that life, dignity, security, and health will be at the center of policy from now on.
Below the fold is a list of miners from the BBC giving short descriptions of several of the men:
- Luis Urzua, the shift supervisor who was credited with helping the men survive the first 17 days before rescue teams made contact
- Jimmy Sanchez, 19, the youngest of the group who had only been working at the mine for five months and had been showing signs of anxiety
- Mario Gomez, at 63 the oldest miner, who sent up a letter shortly after the miners were found to be alive, saying that the mining company “has got to modernise”
- Jose Ojeda, whose scribbled note – which read “All 33 of us are safe in the shelter” – informed the world the miners were still alive 17 days after the rockfall that trapped them
- Bolivian Carlos Mamani, the only non-Chilean, who was greeted by his president, Evo Morales
- Mario Sepulveda, who brought a bag of stones from the mine as souvenirs
- Juan Illanes, a former soldier who urged his fellow miners to be disciplined and organised while trapped
- Claudio Yanez, who became engaged to his partner of 11 years, Cristina Nunez, during the ordeal
- Yonni Barrios, whose wife only found out about his mistress when they both attended a vigil for him
- Edison Pena, who became known as “the runner” because he ran up to 5km (3 miles) a day through the mine tunnels to keep himself fit
- Victor Zamora, not a miner but a driver who had gone underground to repair a vehicle and was trapped by the rockfall
- Omar Reygadas, a bulldozer operator who, after leaving the capsule, knelt on the ground clutching a Bible
- Esteban Rojas, who while underground told his girlfriend of 25 years that he now wanted to marry her
- Jose Henriquez, an evangelical preacher who had the job of keeping up his colleagues’ spirits
- Claudio Acuna, one of the “palomeros” who handled packages for the group; he celebrated his birthday down the mine
- Franklin Lobos, a former professional soccer player in a Chilean league who received a signed t-shirt sent to the mine by Barcelona star David Villa
- Richard Villarroel, whose partner Dana Castro is heavily pregnant
- Raul Bustos, whose wife has described him as the “luckiest unlucky man on Earth”. He lost his builder’s business in the central port city of Talcahuano during Chile’s earthquake in February, and headed north to the San Jose mine for a new start
- Alex Vega, Jorge Galleguillos, Carlos Barrios, Victor Segovia, Daniel Herrera, Pablo Rojas, Dario Segovia, Osman Araya, Samuel Avalos, Carlos Bugueno and Renan Avalos, Juan Aguilar, Pedro Cortez, Ariel Ticona
The rescuers were Manuel González (the first to descend and the last to be lifted back to safety), Roberto Ríos, Patricio Robledo, Patricio Sepúlveda, Jorge Bustamante, and Pedro Riveros.