Posts Tagged ‘San Jose’

Miners’ rescue turns into celebration

October 18, 2010 Comments off

“…The century-old mine, located off a dirt track in the bare hills of the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, was worked the old-fashioned way. Miners blasted chunks of gold-laden rock with explosives, collected the rubble in trucks and sent it up to the surface to be processed at a plant in nearby Copiapó. …

“The mine was in precarious conditions and they always told the bosses, but the only thing they cared about was production,” said Ms Ramírez. The mine owners have apologised for the accident, but said the decision to reopen the mine in May 2008 after a worker died in an accident in 2007 was taken after safety checks by the authorities.”

Source: Financial Times, October 11 2010


  • The San José mine, which has been the center point of the mining world’s attention for the last 2 months, faced several significant accidents over the past decade.
  • Chilean mining regulators have been fined after the latest accident because of lack of control. The cost of the mining operation will likely cause the mine to cease operations.


  • Many mines in the region are improving safety precautions to ensure regulatory compliance. Still very few mines around the world use advanced cost-benefit analysis that includes the potential cost of accidents. Typically the safety design uses rock mechanical software that calculates a safety margin without taking the cost of reinforcements and potential cost of accidents in account.
  • Some probabilistic techniques attach a value to the risk of fatal accidents, based on the age and salary of the workers and the likelihood of miners hit by falling rock or being trapped. Although this technique is certainly not advisable for deciding whether or not to rescue trapped miners, it would help to include the type of use of drifts in performing cost-benefit analysis for mine design.

©2010 | Wilfred Visser |

Chile miners alive but long rescue ahead

August 24, 2010 2 comments

“Specialist drilling equipment arrived on Monday at a small gold and copper mine in Chile to begin digging out 33 miners trapped nearly half a mile underground for 18 days – a Herculean task that could last until Christmas.

Thirty-three miners trapped deep underground for 17 days after a cave-in at a small private gold and copper mine in northern Chile are alive and well, but still face months underground until they can be hauled out.

The men tied a note reading ‘the 33 of us in the shelter are well’ to a drill that finally reached them on Sunday just as hopes of finding them alive were fading following the August 5 accident in the mine in Chile, the world’s top copper producing nation.”

Source: Financial Times, August 23, 2010


  • Compañía Minera San Esteban Primera, the owner of the mine, is likely to go bankrupt due to the lost production and the cost of the rescue operation. Other parties in Chile have ensured the funding of the rescue operation.
  • Drilling 700 meter at a 66cm diameter would normally not take more than a couple of weeks. However, no conventional methods can be used because of the risk of collapse or flooding of the shelter.


  • The safety regulations for underground mining in Chile will become stronger. Chile is an important mining country, but regulation has mainly focussed on the large mining corporations. Smaller companies will have to increase safety to similar levels, which will reduce the competitiveness of some of the mines.
  • The major mining houses, working together in the ICMM, might consider setting up a global mine rescue team for situations like these. Having a team standby with the best equipment possible to assist in any mine disaster would shorten the time required to rescue miners and increase the likelihood of survival.

©2010 | Wilfred Visser |