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Wednesday, April 11, 2012 (read 863 times)
Trapped Peruvian Minersby Hannah Ryan
Things are looking up for the trapped miners in Peru!
9 Peruvian miners have been trapped since last Thursday in the Cabeza de Negro copper mine, in Ica, which is 300km south of Lima, the capital. The men, who are aged between 22 and 59, have been stuck more than 200 metres underground since the collapse last week. The miners have been getting oxygen, food and water through a tube, which has also allowed them to stay in contact with people above ground. Although all unhurt, some are feeling anxious or desperate, and unsurprisingly very keen to be rescued!
Peru's president Ollanta Humala has asked the trapped miners to be patient and try to be in good spirits as workers feverishly tried to rescue them this morning. "They're being subjected to a lot of cold" said Prime Minister Oscar Valdes from the scene. The miners’ families and the emergency services have been camping near the mine since the rescue operation began, which unfortunately has been slower than expected, as rescuers have been unable to get heavy machinery to the mine. Fresh collapses over the weekend at the Cabeza de Negro mine are also responsible for the delay, according to Valdes.
After the cave-in, there were calls to formalize Peru's vast informal mining sector, which, according to private estimates, generates as much as $2 billion a year. Cabeza de Negro is one of many wildcat mines in Peru, which put workers under high risks to extract copper and other metals. Mining accounts for more than 60% of Peru’s exports; the world's second largest exporter of copper after Chile, Peru is also sixth in gold exports. Yet Peru "doesn't have a specialist team for mining rescues" according to Jose de Echave, former deputy environment minister. Official figures show that 52 miners died in Peru last year in work-related accidents, a third of them in mine shaft collapses.
Although, fingers crossed, these miners should be lucky. After recent government appeals to mining companies for their expertise, mining colleagues appearing on Sunday to help, and several dozen other rescue workers’ efforts with pickaxes and shovels, progress has been made. Official expectations suggest that the miners could be rescued within hours. "We've advanced six meters in a tunnel that's eight meters long" Mines and Energy Minister Jorge Merino told reporters on the scene, "the important thing is that the nine people are alive. We won't abandon them."
With any luck, this Peruvian rescue will be as successful as that of the Chilean miners in 2010. After 69 days underground, all of the 33 miners trapped in northern Chile were shuttled up a narrow escape shaft to freedom and joyous reunions with their friends, family, and some 1,500 journalists of the world’s press, covering what turned into the feel good story of the year. So good luck to the rescue operation in Peru!
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