Chilean miners trapped, but citizens approve government response
One month out, the Chilean miners are still trapped. The government's quick response to the tragedy has so far been a boon for new President Sebastian Piñera.
Viña del Mar, Chile; and Mexico City
While tragedies can bind a nation together, the government in charge of recovery often becomes the target of criticism – for a slow response, misuse of funds, or any number of things gone awry.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
But one month out, the mining tragedy that has gripped Chile has so far been a boon for the new administration of Sebastian Piñera. According to a survey from the company Adimark, his approval increased from 46 percent in July to 56 percent in August, after 33 miners, trapped and feared dead for 17 days were located alive.
His mining minister, Laurence Golborne, who has scarcely left the San José mine since it collapsed on Aug. 5 and has become the face of the rescue effort, is enjoying even greater approval at 78 percent.
"The government saw a big increase in approval basically due to its satisfactory handling of the miner situation,” says Manuel Antonio Garreton, a sociologist at the University of Chile. "Of course it helps that there has been a certain amount of success surrounding the rescue efforts."
Plans A, B, and C
There are two rescue efforts simultaneously under way to reach the men who were trapped when the gold and copper mine in which they were working collapsed on top of them. The world was alerted to their survival 17 days later, when a drill breached their refuge and they sent a note up saying they were well.
The first effort under way, known as Plan A, involves drilling a shaft directly above the refuge at 2,300 feet, a plan that could take four months. Another plan is under way that would take less time. It involves using a drill above a different part of the mine, at an angle from the refuge, and only has to reach some 2,000 feet. This plan ran into technical problems Monday that may slow things down a bit. On Sunday, authorities announced that yet another effort would begin Sept. 18. This plan could take two months using an oil drill that will be available at the middle of September.
This nation of 17 million has been gripped by the daily rescue effort, including the lives of the family members who have gathered at “Camp Hope” outside the collapsed mine. Chileans have rallied around the plight of the miners.
“They have found them alive and that is an achievement for all of the country, not just for the president or his government but for the whole country,” says Maria Cecilia Sandoval, a homemaker from Viña del Mar, a beach resort near Santiago.