MAC: Mines and Communities

Trapped: Workers for Chile's ill-fated mining company face another kind of disaster

Published by MAC on 2010-10-04
Source: Business News Americas (2010-09-22)

While efforts to rescue the 33 trapped miners at the San Jose mine in northern Chile may now succeed within a month, their fellow mineworkers are confronting risks of a different kind.

The San Jose mine owners - San Esteban Primera - are about to go bankrupt.

Ironically, this is likely to occur just as a "pilot hole" reaches the underground victims of the company's past misdeeds.

Faced with dismissal, three hundred San Estaban Primera workers have failed to find alternative employment.

Adding insult to injury, they've been told they won't be entitled to severance pay even if they do find new jobs - since they would also have to "voluntarily resign" from their culprit company.

Previous posting:- Trapped: The Chilean Mining Tragedy

ESPAÑOL

San Jose mine workers reject job solutions proposed by govt - Chile

By Victor Henriquez

Business News Americas

22 September 2010

Close to 300 workers from Chile's San Esteban Primera mining company, owner of the San Jose mine in northern region III, are dissatisfied with the government's plan to resolve the uncertainty surrounding their job security, one of the workers told BNamericas.

On September 13, the government organized a job fair at which local large and mid-sized mining companies were expected to offer employment to these workers, fellow employees of the 33 miners that remain trapped 700m underground at the San Jose mine following a cave-in on August 5.

"Most of the companies attending the fair were not from the mining sector. They were also from other regions and were offering jobs for 19-22 year olds. The wages were also 40% lower than the salaries workers have at San Esteban Primera," the source said, adding: "So far, none of the offers made at the fair has been successfully completed."

San Esteban has said it will only able to pay workers' salaries up to November this year. The company is undergoing a judicial process that will likely end with a declaration of bankruptcy, which would complicate things further for workers.

Workers' representatives met on September 21 with mining minister Laurence Golborne and other authorities to discuss ways to solve the problem. The minister said the government would make every effort to find ways to resolve the situation, including providing legal advice for workers.

To complicate matters even further, workers from San Esteban must voluntarily resign from their current jobs before accepting offers from another company so they would not be entitled to severance payments, region III senator Isabel Allende told BNamericas

Allende, who was also present at the meeting with Golborne, and a group of senators submitted a bill to congress that would allow workers from the mining sector to end their contracts without losing severance payments if a company does not comply with safety standards.

Rescue Efforts

Meanwhile, the head of the rescue operation, Andres Sougarret, confirmed that the earliest date for the physical rescue of the trapped miners is the beginning of November, and not mid-October as was reported by paper El Mercurio.

On Wednesday, the Schramm T-130 machine, which is mainly used in deepwater oil well exploration and whose operation has been dubbed plan B, had drilled 85m of a 66cm-diameter hole after completing the pilot hole some days ago.

The Raiseborer Strata 950 drilling machine, which has been working onsite since August 30 and is known as plan A, had reached a depth of 376m in its first stage involving the construction of the pilot hole, which then needs to be widened to its final diameter of about 66cm.

Finally, the RIG 442 drilling machine, which started works last weekend, has already surpassed a depth of 27m and is advancing at one meter per hour. Plan C's goal is to drill a 60cm-diameter hole without needing a pilot stage.

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