Did Chile learn anything from the trapped miners?

Stolen from Sandboxworld.com, click for original

Looks like it. The number of sites being mined in Chile has doubled this year, to about 8,000 from 4,000 last year, as people are driven to the hills by high copper prices. But even as more sites are opening, mining death is down a bit. Last year was the deadliest in more than a decade in Chilean mines, with 45 people dying in recorded accidents. This year, only 14 died through July, well below trend. In fact, even if the same number again die by the end of the year, that would still make 2011 the least deadly year since 2002. Here’s hoping.

Even one workplace death isn’t acceptable, of course. And it does nothing to comfort a family to know that their loved one died in a less deadly year. But the good news is that fewer families are suffering such a loss. It will be interesting to keep an eye on this as the year goes on. If Chile can really go from its deadliest year in ages to its safest, it will have things to teach to other countries.

(Also note that some of the small, uninspected mines may have unreported deaths, as nobody wants to go to the authorities and get their mine shut down. Also note that the unions blame additional deaths on work conditions, particularly the frequent moves from high elevation to low and back again. So the figures behind this post need to be taken with a grain of salt.)