Although the initial number of miners trapped in the mine was originally estimated at 34
, now the number has been set at 33. Their families and friends have gathered and remain in the proximity of the mine and watch with apprehension and hopefulness the efforts of the rescue crews to reach the location where the miners are assumed to have taken refuge after the collapse of the tunnels.
Rescue crews, assisted by heavy machinery and sophisticated equipment provided by other mining companies, have been working around the clock since the day of the accident, however, until today, no contact have been made with the miners and no certainty about their condition exists.
Following the accident, there were reports from the operators of the mine (Minera San Esteban - Primera) that implied there was an emergency refuge with oxygen, food and water capable of sustaining the life of the workers for up to 72 hours. Nevertheless, more than 144 hours since the accident, most everybody on the site remains hopeful that the miners are still alive and that they will be rescued in good condition.
Most of the foundation for that hope, however, comes from words of encouragement from local authorities, the fact that vigorous rescue efforts continue, the mutual support of family and friends gathered at the site and deep-rooted religious beliefs.
Today, officially Miner’s Day in Chile, the Catholic Bishop of Copiapó celebrated Mass at the San Jose site to honour St. Lawrence, guardian Saint of the Miners, and to pray for the prompt rescue of the workers trapped since last Thursday. The ceremony was attended by the families of the miners, First Lady Cecilia Morel, the Minister of Mining and other authorities in the region.
Before participating in this ceremony, visibly moved and affected by the situation, First Lady Cecilia Morel said:
"I admire the strength and integrity of the families of the workers; uncertainty is a terrible feeling."
"I give all my sympathy to the wives of the miners, the support of a woman who is a mother and who has also suffered losses in her life,"
said Morel, as reported by "La Tercera"
Chilean President has requested assistance
to Canada, Perú, the United States and Australia to deal with this emergency.
"If there is any technology, any knowledge that will help us, we will use it."
Chile is the world’s largest producer of copper and this disaster has raised concerns that copper prices might increase in world markets
. This concern is unfounded. Minera San Esteban of Copiapó is a relatively small operation. Most of the copper produced in Chile comes from the very large operations of Chuquicamata and El Teniente, both run by Codelco-Chile, and Minera Escondida, operated by a consortium integrated by BHP Billiton (British), Rio Tinto (Australia), JECO Corporation (Japan) and participation of International Finance Corporation (World Bank).
(Note: Mr. D. Doll P. from "El Diario de Atacama
", of Copiapó, kindly provided information and pictures for this report).