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Chilean Mine Rescue: The Accident, ‘The 33’ Today, the Future of Their Story, and Our Reaction

Rafael Vergara, Francisco Corona, International Mining and Oil & Gas Law, Development, and Investment (2013)

More than two years ago, on August 5, 2010, the world witnessed events at the 700-meter-deep (2,300 ft) San Jose Mine in the Atacama Desert of Chile, where a collapse trapped 33 miners. This huge undertaking, led by the Chilean Ministry of Mines, resulted in a dramatically successful rescue, after 69 days. This paper will summarize some details of the rescue, including organization and coordination of work teams and decision making, lessons learned, and second, what happened after the accident under three perspectives: as a nation, to the 33 miners and as a country.

The San Jose Mine, that produced copper and gold, is about 45 kilometers (28 mi) north of the city of Copiapó and app. 800 kilometers (500 mi) north of the Chilean capital, Santiago.

The total cost of the rescue operation was estimated at US$20 million, a third of which was financed with private donations and the rest came from the state-owned mining corporation Codelco and from the Chilean government itself. The State of Chile reached a settlement for USD$ 5 million with San Esteban Mining Company.


The San Jose Mine, which had been in operation for nearly 100 years and had a long history of accidents, was owned by the San Esteban Mining Company. A record of eight workers had died there between years 2004 and 2010, and the company had received in the past 42 fines for br