SANTIAGO – Fourteen of the 33 miners who last year were trapped for 70 days in a mine in northern Chile have requested that the government allow them to retire early and receive pensions since they have not been able to overcome the physical and psychological aftereffects of the ordeal, the press reported Sunday.
Cristian Barra, an Interior Ministry official who was present during the rescue operations, said President Sebastian Pińera will decide within the next 30 days if he will grant the men’s request, the El Mercurio newspaper said.
“We’re meeting with them in Santiago and Copiapo, and among their requests they (asked) us to provide 14 of them with retirement pensions, the oldest and sickest, since they have no real chance of returning to work,” Barra said.
One of the beneficiaries would be Luis Urzua, the shift boss, who was the last of the miners to emerge on Oct. 13 from the refuge in one of the mine galleries 700 meters (about 2,275 feet) underground in the San Jose mine, near Copiapo, in the arid Atacama desert.
Also standing to benefit from the measure would be Jorge Galleguillos, Mario Gomez and Yonny Barrios, the latter of whom acted as the group’s medic during the time they were trapped.
The three men are suffering from silicosis, which is caused by inhaling crystalline silica dust and is present in most mines. The dust is deposited gradually in the lungs and causes irreversible tissue degeneration that can only be treated using bronchodilators and anti-inflammatory medications.
The list of the possible retirees includes the men who are older than 49, Urzua said.
The request will not prevent the miners from filing a lawsuit against the government over the lack of financing of public entities at the country’s mines, the 55-year-old Urzua said.
“These retirements are in view of what we are suffering from, and the lawsuits are because someone with the state didn’t do his job well,” Urzua said.
Also remaining to be established is the agenda for the commemoration events resulting from the epic incident, which began with the collapse of part of the mine on Aug. 5, 2010, making the first contact with the 33 miners 17 days later and the Oct. 13 rescue itself, which became a huge media event.
The miners have taken advantage of invitations that were extended to them to travel to different parts of the world since they emerged from the mine, while several films are currently in production to tell their story. Several books have already been written about the mine accident and the men’s ordeal.