Today is the 26th day that they have been down there. They survived the first 17 days on 48 hours worth of food. Now they have three holes from the surface, big enough to provide air, food, clothing, medicine and other essential items. Telephone service was established over the weekend, so now the miners can speak to their families.
Still, can you imagine? Trapped in a small space, I think it is about 800 sf, with 32 of your co-workers? Knowing that the best estimates put your rescue at somewhere around Christmas? There are people that I couldn't be in a cubicle with for more than 10 minutes without blood being shed. I guess survival instincts probably take over to some degree. It is probably more of a dangerous situation now, as they have their basic needs taken care of. It is less of a survival situation and more of a solitary confinement with 32 of your not-so-close friends situation. Gah.
Of course, the mining corporation that was running the mine is bankrupt and isn't even participating in the rescue. The miners that are trapped are not being paid, so their families are dealing with the dual stresses of having their loved one trapped underground and being in financial straits. Even though our government sucks and our economy is in the toilet, we should be thankful for spirit of community and charity that would kick in, should something like this happen in the U.S.
Call me cold hearted, but I even have a little respect for the Chilean government's response to the demands for them to cover the salaries:
Union leader Evelyn Olmos called on the government to pay the workers' wages starting in September, plus cover the roughly 100 other people at the mine who are now out of work and 170 more who work elsewhere for San Esteban. Its license has been suspended by the government.
"We want the government to pay our salaries in full until our comrades are freed and then pay our severances," said Olmos.
Mining Minister Laurence Golborne said the government was prohibited by labor laws from assuming responsibility for the salaries. He said it was up to the mining company and would have to be worked out in Chilean courts.
Now, maybe the government could cover the pay and seek other remedies for reimbursement from the company or something, just to fill the gap. But, still, it is refreshing to see a government that doesn't automatically throw money at every problem.Golborne noted the extraordinary circumstances of the mine collapse but pointed out there are many other Chileans who lack a job and said the government cannot be responsible for all of them.
It shouldn't escape mentioning that the miners are going to have to work to help in their own rescue, clearing rock and debris at the bottom of the hole that is to be drilled. It will take crews of 6+ working iaround the clock in shifts to remove the 4,000 tons of rock expected to fall. I wonder if anyone has told them that they aren't being paid for that? There is surely at least one of those miners that will say, "To hell with it, they ain't paying me, I ain't doing it."
I have a hard time understanding how, in this day and age, that we don't have some other, faster way to reach these miners. Heck, the guys on Ocean's Thirteen tunneled under Las Vegas is an hour or so.
Following the current plan, the rescue path will be a 26 inch wide tunnel through solid rock. A one man escape pod will carry each miner to the surface, a trip taking one hour. Oh. Hell. No. Can you imagine that trip? Ever had a traditional, old fashioned MRI, all the way in the tube? Now imagine it with no light at either end, knowing you are going through solid rock and one wrong move could mean you are stuck there to die, and having to think about it for an hour or more.
I will keep watching this story, waiting to see if they mention how much Valium they send down to the miners before they load up in the escape hatch.