It’s said that faith can move mountains. But for 33 Chilean miners, boring a hole in a hill was enough.
After being trapped more than 2,000 feet below surface for 69 days, the 33 miners were finally pulled to safety Wednesday, with none suffering more than minor injuries. A NASA-designed rescue capsule lifted each man from the depths into sunlight.
The miners’ return to the world above was the culmination of the “miracle” that people prayed for after the Chilean mine collapsed. The miracle got an assist from two Pennsylvania firms — Schramm Inc. and Center Rock Inc. — that supplied the drilling rig and drill bit that broke through stone to reach them.
The gold and copper mine’s collapse has launched investigations, as it should. The San Jose mine has had safety problems in the past. Chilean President Sebastian Pinera said the mine won’t be reopened. He also fired the top regulators of the mining industry.
People across the world watched the drama on TV as the capsule was dropped again and again down the shaft drilled to reach the miners. Predicted to take up to 48 hours, the operation was finished in less than 24.
Much became known about the miners while they were underground, including that one lothario had both a wife and a mistress waiting to greet him.
Viewers learned that foreman Luis Urzua kept the men organized and in good spirits during that first 17 days when they had no idea when or if they would be rescued. Urzua, 54, like the captain of a ship, was the last miner to be brought to the surface.
Other mine accidents have captured the world’s attention, including the successful rescue of nine Pennsylvania miners who were in jeopardy of drowning after the Quecreek mine flooded in July 2002. Just last April, 38 Chinese miners died after a chamber flooded, but 115 were rescued.
Mining is a dangerous trade, but for those who make it a livelihood there are few good economic alternatives. In Chile, mining is one of the best paid occupations. But it’s not just the pay. As Silvia Segovia said of her brother Victor, who was rescued Wednesday, “He told me, ‘I am a miner, and I will die a miner.’ ”