Five years ago today, the San Jose Mine in Chile collapsed, trapping 33 Miners underground. CNN saved everything from back then. Click here to go to all of their coverage from back then. A new window will open.
I was fortunate enough to see the first recue and the last recue on CNN 5 years ago. I saw the first one before I left for work that October morning and the last one later that evening. No doubt the 1 Billion people who watched the rescue worldwide on TV breathed a collective sign of relief when the last miner was hoisted above ground. Chilean President Sebastian Pinera was there to greet all 33 miners as they were rescued. he’s the guy standing directly in front of the white door in the above picture.
American engineer Jeff Hart was drilling wells in Afghanistan when he was called in to help with the crucial part of the recue effort: The Fenix-2 Capsule. If not for the capsule, which hoisted the miners to the surface one at a time the original timeline for the recue was around Christmas. The new plan involving the capsule cut the time in half.
I remember CNN’s Wolf Blitzer saying while the network covered the recue effort this was uncharted territory for a number of reasons. For one, there was no guarantee all 33 miners would still be alive long enough to be rescued. NASA Doctors and Scientists monitored the miners’ conditions closely. As messed up as it sounds, NASA used the opportunity to study how the miners coped with being in a dark, confined area for two months. Seriously though, all 33 Miners are still dealing with the psychological trauma from their time underground.
Miner Mario Sepulveda summed up the unfortunate truth of the miners’ lives since the fame dried up in a Daily Mail Article. First and foremost, the psychological damage can’t be overstated enough. That said, Mario expressed what is the unfortunate truth of folks in their position: They were exploited by everyone for fame and money before being abandoned. Chile’s greatest story of hope has been forgotten by even its own government, which is very corrupt. The miners, on the other hand were left penniless and forgotten.
This brings me to news of the movie about their experience:
As Mario said when the 33 greenlit the movie, they’re pessamistic about getting a cut of the profits though according to CNN, they’re all guaranteed $100,000 if the movie breaks even. That was part of the negotiations for the movie deal. They’re not supid: They know they’re being exploited for money but this time they’re making sure they get paid. Mario said he will wait until he sees the finished product before he critques it though the actors playing them spent time with each miner.
The underground scenes were shot in an abandoned mine in Columbia while the above ground scenes were shot above the same mine to reinact the cameground the was built around the rescue site. The original San Jose Mine has since been sealed off though some of the miners do visit the mine’s entrance from time to time.
In most of the recent bioflicks done, the source material isn’t readily available since they’re no longer alive. The 33 is an exception: Former Chilean President Sebastian Pinera will apparently play himself in the movie. The least the men whose rescue inspired the world deserve is the happy ending they should have gotten five years ago. I wish them and their families only the best.