Trapped Chile miner's family sues owners and officials

Police at the Copiapo mine in northern Chile, where 33 men are trapped underground Authorities face the challenge of keeping the men physically and mentally fit as they await their rescue

The family of one of the 33 miners trapped underground in Chile has said it will sue the owners of the mine and government inspectors.

A lawyer acting for the family of Raul Bustos told the BBC that the lawsuit would be launched on Thursday.

The family accuse the owners the San Jose mine of safety lapses and officials of negligently allowing it to reopen in 2008 following an accident.

The miners were earlier told they might not be rescued for several months.

Health Minister Jaime Manalich said the miners, trapped some 700m (2,300ft) beneath the surface since 5 August, had reacted calmly, according to the AFP news agency.

Officials had delayed breaking the news out of concern for their mental well-being.

Authorities have been explaining how they intend to keep the men in good physical and mental health while a shaft is drilled to rescue them from their refuge in the mine, near the northern city of Copiapo.

Meanwhile, their families have been holding vigils and sending the men mementos and messages down a small supply shaft.

Their growing despair turned to jubilation on Sunday when rescuers made contact with the miners via a probe lowered into the mine.


Lawyer Remberto Valdes told the BBC that the criminal action by Mr Bustos's family sought specifically to see the mine owners and government inspectors condemned for their alleged responsibility.

Start Quote

Now is not the the time to take the blame nor to ask for pardon”

End Quote Alejandro Bohn San Esteban Mining

"I'm not thinking of monetary compensation," said Carolina Narvaez, the wife of Mr Bustos, according to AFP.

"I'm thinking of holding people responsible. Not only the mine's owners but also people who didn't do their job" checking the safety of the mine, she added.

Inspectors from Chile's National Geology and Mine Service - known as Sernageomin - have been named in the case because they authorised the mine to reopen in 2008, a year after it was shut following an accident.

The owners of the San Esteban Mining company which operates the San Jose mine, Alejandro Bohn and Marcelo Kemeny, have denied any responsibility for the accident.

"Now is not the the time to take the blame nor to ask for pardon," Mr Bohn said.

Chile's Congress is investigating the accident and President Sebastian Pinera has vowed to punish anyone found to be responsible for what happened.

Fitness programme

A special exercise and recreation programme is being set up to keep the men fit during their long wait.

They will also need to be in shape to be pulled up the 66cm (26-inch) wide shaft that is being bored to rescue them.

Officials have warned it may take up to four months to complete.

"We were able to tell them... they would not be rescued before the Fiestas Patrias [Chile's Independence Day on 18 September], and that we hoped to get them out before Christmas," Mr Manalich was quoted as saying.

Although they took the news calmly, he said, "a period of depression, anguish and severe malaise" was possible.

The BBC's Gideon Long says parts for a massive drill are arriving on site

The health minister added that the surface team wanted the trapped miners to set up routines, entertain themselves and attempt to simulate day and night.

The US space agency, Nasa, has been called upon for its expertise keeping astronauts alive and well on long missions in confined spaces.

The miners, who spent 17 days surviving on emergency supplies designed for a couple of days, are now being sent down the supply shaft high-protein, high-calorie foods similar to those designed for astronauts.

Other supplies have included small lights, eye patches and medicine. Anti-depressants would be included with the supplies, the health minister said.

An intercom cable has been dropped to them to allow communications their rescuers and families.


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