Rescued miners to take firm, govt to court in Chile

Miners were rescued in an operation that was broadcast live around the world.

Updated: Oct 22, 2010, 13:00 PM IST

Santiago: Many of the miners rescued last week after more than two months trapped underground in northern Chile have decided to take legal action against the firm that owns the mine and against the Chilean government, lawyer Edgardo Reinoso said on Thursday.

In a parliamentary investigation of security violation at the San Jose mine, the lawyer said that 31 of the 33 workers who were trapped want to establish private and public responsibilities for their 70-day ordeal 700 metres underground.

The workers` decision took into account "the words of Labour Minister (Camila Merino), who said the authorities had a record which indicated that this mine should not have been opened", Reinoso said.

Miner Juan Illanes, the third to return to the surface, made serious accusations this week against the firm San Esteban, which operated the firm.

Illanes said the workers had told miner operators three hours before the accident that the creaks of the rock they were working with were louder than usual.

The miners, Illanes said, asked to be allowed to go back to the surface, but mine authorities, specifically the mine`s operations manager Carlos Pinilla, told them not to.

Pinilla, however, has denied these allegations in a joint statement with mine manager Pedro Simunovic.

"Neither one of us, the people responsible for the operation of the mine at that time, heard either from a particular worker or from the shift boss in charge any comment whatsoever about unusual noise or explosions, and even less was there a request to put down tasks due to the alleged risk incurred," the statement said, in comments quoted on Wednesday by Chilean daily El Mercurio.

"Never did anyone among us have the slightest indication that a catastrophe such as that of August 05 could happen," they added.

Chilean authorities are currently investigating the mining accident.

The miners were trapped underground on August 05, when the shaft they were working in collapsed. They were completely isolated from the outside world for the first 17 days of their plight, although they later got food, water, oxygen and even power and communications lines from the surface.

On October 13, they were rescued in a spectacular operation that was broadcast live around the world. Keeping the miners alive and eventually rescuing them is believed to have cost the Chilean state USD 10 to USD 20 million.

IANS