Case Closed: Chilean Mine Collapse

Pablo Rojas celebrates as he emerges from the Phoenix capsule on the surface of the San Jose mine in Chile on October 14, 2010.

(CNN) — Who’s to blame for the mine collapse that trapped 33 workers underground for months in Chile?

No one, according to prosecutors, who closed the case Thursday after a lengthy investigation.

Nearly three years after the collapse at the San Jose mine in Copiapo, Chile, prosecutors said, there’s not enough evidence to file criminal charges.

The decision comes nearly three years after the mining accident, which drew global attention as word spread that the workers had survived and rescuers worked for weeks to free them.

For 17 days after the mine collapsed, nobody knew if they were alive. The miners spent 69 days underground before they were rescued.

“This was a complicated case, which is why it took us so long to make this determination,” regional prosecutor Hector Mella Farias said. “And I want to be clear in saying that everything to collect evidence that the law allows was done.”

Authorities investigated the case for years, he said, compiling expert analysis and testimonies that totaled more than 20,000 pages.

Two outraged miners told CNN Chile late Thursday that they plan to appeal the regional prosecutor’s decision.

The owners of the mine should be held responsible in a criminal case, they said, alleging that the company knew there was a risk of collapse and didn’t do enough to protect workers. The miners have also filed a negligence lawsuit against the government, accusing the agency that oversees mining of failing to ensure safety measures.

“Today we heard the decision, as did many of our colleagues, and many of them are extremely shocked,” said Luis Urzua, the miners’ shift boss and the last man rescued from the mine. “Because this is something that places responsibility upon the mine owners, because they are the entity that must supervise what happens. As supervisors, they should have prevented it. They should have known what sectors were at risk of collapsing.”

The miners want future accidents to be prevented, he said, and they want the mine’s owners to be held accountable.

“We want for this never to happen again,” he said. “What happened to us was not a work of nature. This was done by a man, by the negligence of man.”

Attorneys for the mine’s owners told CNN Chile on Thursday that the prosecutor’s decision indicated that natural causes sparked the accident, and the company’s owners are not responsible.

“This decision wasn’t made on a whim,” said attorney Catherine Lathrop. “It is part of a long investigative process.”

Miner Juan Carlos Aguilar said the miners aren’t looking for money, but they do want justice. And comments like Lathrop’s, he said, show that they haven’t gotten that yet.

“She is laughing at what happened to us,” he said. “I think any miner is going to feel the same way. If they did nothing for us, when we were trapped for 70 days 700 meters underground, what is going to happen when there’s another incident?. … Any person can do anything in Chile, and there is no justice.”

Jennifer Lopez Joins Antonio Banderas For Chilean Miner Drama ‘The 33′

Fox News – Jennifer Lopez is the latest A-list Latino talent signing on to a film project about the heroic rescue of 33 trapped Chilean miners.

Very selective when it comes to her acting roles, Lopez’s turn in “The 33″ will be first big-screen role since starring in this year’s action-thriller “Parker.”

The Hollywood Reporter announced Lopez was joining the ensemble film, along with Martin Sheen and Brazilian actor Rodrigo Santoro.

At the Cannes Film Festival, it was revealed Antonio Banderas would be playing Mario Sepúlveda, the man aptly given the nickname “Super Mario” as he took on the role as the public face of the miners.

Mike Medavoy, a producer of “The 33,” says the film will dramatize the cave-in at a mine in Chile’s Atacama desert and the globally televised rescue of the miners two-month ordeal that mesmerized millions worldwide.

“I’m very excited and full of anxiety. All of my mates are looking forward to this big production,” Sepúlveda told The Associated Press .

“Banderas is very charismatic. I like him a lot and I think this movie is going to make him even more famous than he already is,” he added.

Even in their despair, Sepulveda said, “peace, love, solidarity and teamwork” were shared by the miners who survived entrapment longer than anyone else before.

“There are people who don’t realize the value of what they have next to them. And after those 69 days we know that there’s nothing as important as being alive, being healthy and enjoying the people you love while you’re alive,” he said.

The miners said it felt like an earthquake when the shaft caved in above them on Aug. 5, 2010, filling the lower corridors of the copper and gold mine with suffocating dust. Hours passed before they could even begin to see a few steps in front of them. Above them tons of rock shifted constantly, threatening to bury them forever.

People on the surface didn’t know for more than two weeks that the men had survived the collapse. The 33 men had stretched a meager 48-hour store of emergency food for 17 days, eating tiny capsules of tuna and sips of expired milk while a narrow shaft finally reached their haven and the world learned they were alive.

The small emergency shaft allowed food and water to be lowered to the miners while rescuers drilled a bigger escape hole. Finally, in the early hours of Oct. 13, the miners were hauled up one-by-one in a cage through 2,000 feet of rock.

Back on the surface they were received as heroes. They got paid trips to the Greek Islands, visited the Real Madrid stadium in Spain and paraded at Magic Kingdom in Disney World.

But the fantasy began to crumble on their return home.

Many ran out of money and had to scratch out a living in the dusty working-class neighborhoods and shantytowns of the desert city of Copiapo. Some began suffering from health and psychological problems. Others took to alcohol and drugs. Most are still kept up at night by memories of their ordeal.

“I’m thankful for things in life,” said Sepulveda, an electrician who earns a living giving motivational speeches. “Some are good, others bad, but God gave us another chance … The door that was opened for us is huge.”

Variety magazine say production for “The 33″ is scheduled to start in the fall in Chile. The film will be directed by Mexican filmmaker Patricia Riggen.

Chilean miner ‘Super Mario’ stresses safety, respect for employees

Elizabeth Patterson – Cape Breton Post - He was one of the 33 Chilean miners trapped underground in a mining disaster that captured worldwide attention in the late summer and fall of 2010. He spoke to the Cape Breton Post on Thursday, wearing the same sunglasses that he had on when he was rescued. The special glasses, given to the miners from the U.S. company Oakley, protects his eyes from ultraviolet light. To this day, his eyes remain sensitive to light from being underground and the glasses have become associated with the miners.

Sepulveda will give the keynote presentation today to the Mining Society of Nova Scotia’s annual general meeting. He knows all too well what can happen when safety regulations aren’t followed to the letter.

“All they ask for is respect and acknowledge that they are there,” he said about miners, through translator Pam Nobrega. “And to follow the rules and regulations first when it come to safety and procedures. (The miners want) to come home safe to their families because most of the time, they spend more time working and leaving their families and yes, that’s what they love doing but they want respect as employees and also, to follow rules and regulations is very important too.”

Despite rumours that the miners profited handsomely off the 2010 disaster, the gifts given were the kind that don’t pay the bills. Most have not been able to work since the event. Sepulveda, thanks to an naturally enthusiastic personality, has been able to turn his experience into a second career, giving speeches and attending conferences. Ironically, in Chile, you cannot work as a miner unless you pass a series of psychological tests and after the disaster, only four of the 33 were deemed fit to return to work as miners. While he enjoys his present work, Sepulveda says he would like to return to Canada to work as a miner since this country doesn’t appear to have the same stringent psychological testing requirements.

Sepulveda still lives in the same neighbourhood in Chile where he grew up. He lost his mother at birth and was alone when he was 13 and that fact weighed heavily on him when he first became trapped since his own son, Francisco, was also 13.

“So it brought memories back from his childhood,” translated Nobrega for Sepulveda. “He was hoping that his son was not going to suffer what he suffered at 13.”

Today, his son is considering a career as a mining engineer so that other children can be spared what he went through as a child.

“The hardest thing about being underground was at the beginning when they were trapped,” translated Nobrega for Sepulveda. “They didn’t know if they were going to come out alive. They didn’t know … They kinda knew that the employer was not going to be interested in trying to find them. They thought they were going to leave them there so that was the scariest part — to know that first they got trapped and then that the employer was not going to look for them and not make an effort.”

However, the effort was made and eventually they were rescued. But while the men got out with surprisingly few physical injuries, Sepulveda said they weren’t so lucky from a psychological sense.

“When they came out, they came out with a lot of problems which they are facing now,” translated Nobrega for Sepulveda. “But the biggest one of all is the psychological effects they’re facing now. They do have a lot of problems, they do need help — their families have suffered a lot from their side-effects.”

Yet, despite the hardships endured in the mine and since the disaster, Sepulveda remained optimistic and convinced that God played a major part in the rescue and has given them a second chance at life.

“God does exist and miracles do happen — (we) are living proof of that.”

Antonio Banderas to star in film about trapped Chilean miners

Spaniard will play Mario Sepúlveda, public face of the 33 men involved in 2010 mining accident, in Patricia Riggen’s new film – Antonio Banderas will play Mario Sepúlveda, who became the public face of the 33 Chilean miners trapped underground for 69 days three years ago, according to Deadline.

The 33, the latest film to document the miners’ story, will be the official version of the tale. It has been put together with the exclusive co-operation of the men involved in the incident.

Martin Sheen and Rodrigo Santoro will also star in the film, which will be directed by Patricia Riggen (La Misma Luna) from a screenplay by Mikko Alanne and José Rivera. She expects to shoot in the autumn, once the film has secured investment at this year’s Cannes film festival.

The rescue of the miners, who became trapped more than half a mile underground, was carried out by a Chile-led international taskforce and was watched by more than a billion people. Sepúlveda became known to the world as the ebullient host of regular video journals sent to the surface by the miners, earning the nickname “Super Mario”.

Santoro will star as the group’s second-in-command, Florencio Ávalos. Due to his youth and good health, the 31-year-old was selected as the first miner to ride the rescue capsule to the surface in case of complications during the 15-minute ascent.

It is not clear at this stage whether Sheen, who had a Spanish father and was born Ramón Antonio Gerardo Estévez, will also star as one of the miners.

Riggen’s project follows a 2010 film about the Chilean miners entitled The 33 of San José. Spanish director Antonio Recio’s little-seen movie emerged on DVD in a handful of European countries not long after the events it documented.

Chile miner rescued after 52 hours – A CHILEAN miner has been rescued unharmed after being trapped underground for 52 hours in the northern Atacama region, where 33 miners were dramatically retrieved in August 2010.

The miner, Mario Lopez, 42, told local radio he had not been injured in the accident, which left him trapped some 100 metres underground. He was then taken to a regional hospital for evaluation.

The incident took place in the Victoria mine, located near Vallenar, a city some 600 kilometres north of the capital Santiago.

The case echoes the 2010 accident that trapped 33 men in a mine 600 metres below the surface, also in northern Chile.

Those miners were rescued after 69 days underground in a dramatic operation broadcast live around the world.

Police said they knew that Lopez was alive because he used a hammer to bang on metal tubes running though the mine shaft. The rescuers responded likewise, signalling that help was on the way.

Antonio Banderas to star in film about 2010 Chilean mining accident

In a joint Chilean-American effort, led by Mexican director Patricia Riggen, the story of the 2010 Copiapó mining accident will be brought to the big screen for the first time. The incident in the Atacama Desert, when a cave-in left 33 miners trapped underground for 69 days, attracted global news coverage three years ago.

Patricia Riggen, the filmmaker who made a name for herself outside Latin America in 2007 with the Mexican-American drama “La Misma Luna” (Under The Same Moon), confirmed Banderas’ participation to La Tercera on Wednesday.

“Antonio Banderas will be part of our ensemble of actors. We’re very happy to have him in the cast. But he is is only the first confirmed [actor] of many more to come,” Riggen said.

Riggen preferred not to specify the role that Banderas would take on, but it is believed that he will be portraying Mario Sepúlveda, de facto host of the miners’ video journals from underground. Local media christened him “Super Mario” for his energy and humor despite such grave circumstances.

“In general we’re receiving very positive feedback about the project,” Riggen said. “We already can’t wait for filming in Chile to begin, which should be later this year.”

By George Forrester (
Copyright 2013 – The Santiago Times

Leader Of Rescued Chilean Miners Visits Pope For Year Of Faith

VATICAN CITY (CNA/EWTN News) .- On the second anniversary of the historic rescue of 33 workers from a mine in Chile, the group’s leader attended a Mass opening the Year of Faith at the Vatican on Oct.11, thanking Pope Benedict for his prayers.

Luis Urzua Iribarren, 54, was shift leader at time of the collapse in the San Jose Mine in Atacama. He was the last to reach the surface during the rescue effort that began on Oct. 11, 2010, and ended two days later.

The Chilean miner traveled to Rome to attend the opening Mass of the Year of Faith and to thank Pope Benedict XVI for his prayers and support during the ordeal that lasted 70 days.

In an interview with CNA, Urzua said that without the help of their Catholic faith, “we would not have survived that harsh trial.”

“I made this visit to thank the Pope for his care, for being an ambassador of faith to the entire world, which is most important,” he said. “The Holy Father has asked us, and we must all do our part.”

During the Mass, Urzua and other workers from around the world received a copy of the documents of the Second Vatican Council from the pontiff. In return, he gave the Pope a letter and a photo signed by each of the 33 miners.

The group was trapped underground after a collapse occurred in the mine on Aug. 5, 2010. Thanks to the meticulous efforts of rescue workers, they were taken out one at a time Oct. 11 and 12 through a special capsule which brought them to the surface from a depth of more than 600 meters.

At the time, Benedict XVI encouraged them to remain calm as the rescue effort progressed, and he invited them to embrace the word of Christ to grow in faith.

He also sent the trapped miners 33 blessed rosaries to encourage them to pray to Our Lady of the Candelabra and to St. Lawrence, the patron of miners.

Urzua recalled that more than 1 billion people worldwide followed the rescue but said he wants to help rescue the world by encouraging all to live the Year of Faith.

“We need to bear witness to the marvels of God, to how we were rescued, especially during these times in which faith is scarce and needs to be revived with our hearts and souls,” he said.

Only 3 Chilean miners attend anniversary

Sky News – Two years after the high-profile rescue of 33 miners trapped deep below ground for more than two months, most of them were no-shows at a ceremony commemorating their liberation.

The ceremony on Friday, led by President Sebastian Pinera, was attended by just three of the 33 stuck in a dark shaft 622 metres beneath the earth’s surface for 69 days.

The rest excused themselves from the event in the presidential palace for various reasons, a government source told AFP.

‘This is an experience that all Chileans will remember forever,’ Pinera said of the highly publicised rescue operation sparked after a shaft collapsed at the San Jose copper and gold mine in the Atacama desert August 5, 2010, trapping 32 Chileans miners and a Bolivian colleague.

It took rescuers 17 days to drill a small shaft to establish contact with the miners, after which they were able to communicate with their loved ones and receive food from the outside world as efforts continued to open a passage way wide enough to pull them out, one by one.

Their plight and eventual liberation, which was televised internationally, sparked much fanfare – both at home and abroad.

‘Sometimes Chileans tend to forget the nice things that happen to us,’ said Mario Sepulveda, one of the more outgoing miners of the group. ‘But one thing is certain: even if we aren’t good at football, we are world champion rescuers.’

Friday’s ceremony was also attended by some 30 technicians and officials involved in the rescue operation. In the aftermath of their rescue, some of the miners have started new businesses and give motivational talks, while others have returned to mining.

Patricia Riggen to Direct Chilean Miner Drama for Mike Medavoy

Director of The 33, the 33 Chilean miners movie

LOS ANGELES ( – Patricia Riggen, director of “Under the Same Moon (La Misma Luna),” will slide behind the camera again to tell the incredible true story of the 33 Chilean miners who were rescued after being trapped half a mile below ground for 69 days, TheWrap has learned.

The project, currently titled “The 33,” will be produced by film veteran Mike Medavoy (“Black Swan,” “Shutter Island”).

Released in 2007, “Under the Same Moon” told the star of a Mexican boy who struggles to be reunited with his mother in the United States. In addition to “Under the Same Moon,” the Mexican-born Riggen has directed the 2011 Disney Channel film “Lemonade Mouth” and “Girl in Progress,” a 2012 coming-of-age drama starring Eva Mendes.

Medavoy said Riggen’s work on “Under the Same Moon” convinced him she was the right fit for the story of the real-life heroes of the San Jose mine.

“I saw in her film not only her talent but the real humanity and humor that this film needs.” Medavoy said in a statement. “Patricia has the heart and sensibility to bring this story to life in a way that accurately reflects what the miners and their families endured.”

Riggen and the producers are currently in Chile meeting with the miners.

The film will depict the mine’s collapse and ongoing rescue efforts, alternating between the miners who are trapped underground and their families and rescuers above. The script was written in collaboration with the miners themselves, and the producers promise the film will include details that have never been made public.

“It’s been an extraordinary experience to meet the miners in person and hear from them the detailed account of their time underground,” Riggen said in a statement. “Since their rescue a little less than two years ago, the real story of their incredible survival has gone untold. In their darkest hour, they struggled to maintain their unity. The collapse brought out the best and the worst in them. Ultimately, the human spirit triumphed and all of them came out alive.”

Medavoy, who lived in Chile for 10 years, secured all 33 of the miners’ rights to the story last year along with executive producers Carlos E. Lavin and Leopoldo Enriquez.

“The 33″ will be shot entirely in Chile, but will be produced in English. Filming is scheduled to start in January 2013, with the producers eyeing a release that fall.

Discussions are under way to cast the film and find distributors. However, the production team is filling out. Edward McGurn, a longtime collaborator of Medavoy’s, is producing along with Medavoy. Also joining the team as producer is Bernie Williams (“A Clockwork Orange”), Martin Laing (“Terminator Salvation”) as production designer, Rafael Cuervo (“Troy”) as production manager and Checco Varese (“True Blood”) as cinematographer.

Patricia Riggen is represented at CAA.

Chile Celebrates Second Anniversary Since Rescuing 33 Miners

AP – It’s been two years since Chilean authorities rescued a group of 33 miners who grabbed the world’s attention when they became trapped a half-mile below the Atacama desert for 69 days.

President Sebastian Pinera is in the northern city of Copiapo to join the miners Sunday at the mouth of the San Jose copper mine that nearly became their rocky grave. They will unveil a five-meter cross as part of a monument known as the “The 33 miners of Atacama: The miracle of life.”

Before anyone knew that they had survived the collapse, the 33 stretched their meager store of emergency food for 17 days, eating tiny capsules of tuna and sips of expired milk.

The desperate workers even discussed the possibility of cannibalism in the first days of the ordeal.

“It was kind of who died first, that’s where we were, he who died first … the rest will go there, like the little animals,” Samuel Avalos said in a documentary aired on Chile’s TVN public television network

The miners were received as heroes after their globally televised rescue mesmerized millions worldwide. But many still suffer from health and psychological problems, and some have struggled to make ends meet despite becoming famous.

Omar Reygadas, 57, told The AP last year that nightmares still keep him up.

“I try to read, to tire myself out so that I can sleep well,” Reygadas said. “But if I’m alone in a closed space, it still makes me anxious — I have to get out and find someone to talk with or distract myself with something.”

Based on reporting by the Associated Press.