Chile mine collapse – the backstory starts to come out

For five days, Chile has watched in rapt horror since a copper mine in the north caved in, trapping 33 workers behind a long barrier of crumbled mountain. Rescuers tried to enter through the sole escape route, a ventilation shaft, but it caved in around them. Government ministers went to the site and the president showed up to meet with families, skipping the presidential inauguration in Colombia. Drilling rigs started trying to perforate 20 cm (8″) holes to the main mine ramp, to provide food, water and communication with any trapped workers that are still alive, though so far there has been no communication with anyone inside the mountain. (Nice diagram of the situation here.)

It started to look like the mine, its owners or its regulators must have screwed up. President Sebastian Piñera said he’d change the mission of the country’s mining regulator, Sernageomin, to ensure that worker safety came first, while reorganizing the agency and tripling its budget. But it hasn’t been clear whether this was a true accident, out of the blue, or whether there was a special combination of foreseeable circumstances that could have been avoided. Now, just as with the Massey Energy coal mine, the BP oil spill, or just about any catastrophe, when you start to look closely, what had been classified as an accident starts to look like negligence.

El Mercurio, one of Santiago’s main dailies, has the story today (my translation):

Categorical judgment of ex-director of Mining and Geology Service (Sernageomin) who ordered its closure in 2006 and 2007: “This mine should never have reopened” for geological safety problems.

Unusual rock fractures caused accidents with consequences from mutilations to fatalities. Eleven months after the closure, Sernageomin authorized the “total reopening” after “approving” the mining project.

SOLEDAD NEIRA AND RODRIGO ÁLVAREZ

“This mine should never have reopened”, Anton Hraste, ex-regional director of Sernageomin in Atacama, said firmly. From his post, he twice ordered the closure of the deposit — first temporarily, in 2006, and then permanently in 2007.


Original text here. Worth reading the whole short article.

Categórico juicio de ex director de Sernageomin que ordenó su cierre en 2006 y 2007:
“Esa mina no debió reabrir nunca” por sus problemas de seguridad geológica

Inusuales fracturas de rocas provocaban accidentes con consecuencias desde mutilaciones hasta decesos. Once meses después de la clausura, Sernageomin autorizó “reapertura total” tras “aprobar” proyecto de la minera.

SOLEDAD NEIRA Y RODRIGO ÁLVAREZ

“Esa mina no debió haber reabierto nunca”, dice tajante Anton Hraste, ex director regional del Servicio Nacional de Geología y Minería (Sernageomin) en Atacama, cargo desde el que ordenó dos veces el cierre del yacimiento, temporal primero, en 2006, y definitivo en 2007.

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