SANTIAGO – Sixty-four Chilean miners who barricaded themselves 650 meters (2,130 feet) underground in a coal mine in the southern town of Curanilahue to press demands for a salary hike have ended their 43-day strike and come to the surface.
The workers and some of their relatives who had joined the protest at the Santa Ana mine, where they spent Christmas and New Year’s Day, emerged on Monday night because doctors recommended they avoid sudden exposure to sunlight that might harm their eyes.
The miners began their latest protest on Dec. 5, saying the government had not fulfilled part of an agreement signed in 2015 that provided for the state acquisition of the mine and its reactivation.
At the time, the government said the company administering the mine, located 639 kilometers (397 miles) south of Santiago, had declared bankruptcy and all workers had received severance pay. The miners, however, say they have not received any compensation.
Rodrigo Diaz, governor of Bio Bio province, said Monday that the creditor’s committee overseeing the bankruptcy proceedings should take control of the mine and seek one or more partners to restart production.
“We as a government have consistently said we’re willing to provide resources to support some undertaking within the Santa Ana mine,” Diaz told Radio Cooperativa.
Representatives from the government and the miners, known as “pirquineros,” will meet on Tuesday to seek a resolution to the conflict.
Pirquineros are miners, most of them independent and employing artisan techniques, who exploit low-grade deposits and whose activity is fully recognized by law in Chile.
Independent miners in Bio Bio extract an average 100 tons of coal a year.