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Thirty three Chilean miners have been trapped since August 5th, nearly a half mile underground and under roughly 5 miles of winding and precarious mineshaft tunnels, many of which have collapsed due to miscalculated drilling. And while a recent 6cm probe sent into the San Esteban copper and gold mine discovered they are alive, they may not see daylight for another 4 months, if at all.

While global press coverage centers on the intense efforts to extract the trapped miners alive, the real issue before Chilean mining authorities and for that matter, for most mining authorities around the world, is that private mining companies systematically cut safety corners in order to reap bigger and quicker profits, placing human lives at great peril. Meanwhile, government agencies tasked with controlling private mining to ensure avoiding health and safety risks, are generally working to promote mining investments, and rarely worry about preventing tragedy, reacting only once accidents occur.

Working conditions in underground mines in Chile and around the world are notoriously precarious. The mine which collapsed this month had no escape routes and had previously been closed due to bad onsite working conditions. In particular, the San Esteban mine has had a history of accidents, with 13 fatalities on site, and several others on nearby roads.

The San Esteban mine, which employs some 150 workers, is owned and operated by a local private company called Compañía Minera San Esteban Primera. It is one of three mines in the immediate vicinity producing a combined 1,200 metric tons of refined copper as well as gold.

Chilean congressman from Copiapó, Antonio Leal points to past accidents of the mine, and claims the owners Marcelo Kemeny and Alejandro Bohn (owner of 70% of the mine) took dangerous shortcuts with respects to worker safety. Prior protests from local worker unions called for introducing ventilation ducts, access ramps, reinforcement of tunnels, safety lodges and...