The decision from the prosecutor’s office of the northern Chilean region of Atacama to not bring any criminal charges against the owners of the San Jose Mine that collapsed in 2010 has angered the 33 miners who were trapped in the mine for 69 days as well as others involved with their rescue.
Atacama chief prosecutor Hector Mella Farias said that, “There was no conviction to formulate any charges” against the mine owners or the regional heads of the National Geology and Mining Service, the Associated Press reported.
“This is a disgrace to Chile’s justice system,” Mario Sepulveda, who became the public face of the miners, told the Associated Press. “It’s impossible that in an accident of this magnitude no one is held responsible,” Sepulveda said. “Today, I want to dig a deep hole and bury myself again, only this time, I don’t want anybody to find me.”
Another prominent player involved in the rescue of the miners, Laurence Golborne, who as mining minister coordinated the rescue of the miners, slammed the decision as “incredible,” while Socialist Sen. Isabel Allende said it was “painful” that no one would be held to account for the cave-in at the San Jose copper and gold mine, located near the northern Chilean city of Copiapo.
On Aug. 5, 2010, the mine collapsed, leaving 33 men trapped. It would be more than two weeks before the world discovered that the men had survived.
Golborne told Cooperativa radio that the mining service had instructed San Jose’s owners to set up a second exit for emergency purposes, but did not subsequently enforce compliance with the order.
Had that alternate exit been installed, the miners “would not have been trapped for 70 days.”
“It’s difficult to accept that the (Atacama) prosecutor’s office has not found anyone responsible,” Sen. Allende said.
An international rescue operation captivated the world’s attention and culminated on Oct. 12-13 of that year with the trapped men being lifted one by one out of the mine over a period of 25 hours, an event broadcast around the world (ME, Dec. 2010, pp 27).
The rescue included a specially built capsule to bring the miners to the surface through a specially drilled escape shaft drilled by the Plan B team.
Other smaller boreholes were drilled and used to provide the trapped miners food, clothing and communications gear.
The Atacama prosecutor’s office launched the investigation nearly three years ago to determine if there was any criminal responsibility for the accident.
The company that operated the mine reached a settlement with the Chilean government in the civil portion of the case, agreeing to pay $5 million to cover the cost of the rescue operation.