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Trapped miners in Chile request 'a little glass of wine'

August 31, 2010 | 12:47 pm

Mineros chile photo el pais

Complex drilling has begun on a tunnel to rescue 33 miners trapped a half-mile underground in a Chilean desert, a process that could take three to four months despite Chile's efforts to speed up the process. The miners are already the longest-trapped in history. A landslide cut them off from the surface on Aug. 5 at the San Jose copper and gold mine in the Atacama region.

In a telephone conversation last week with President Sebastian Pinera, the miners reportedly asked for "a little glass of wine" to ease the wait and to celebrate Chile's bicentennial of independence, observed Sept. 18. "For the moment, there will be no alcohol. Nor tobacco, although almost all of them have asked for some," writes a Chile correspondent for Spain's El Pais (link in Spanish).

"All we can do is give them Vitamin B and folic acid," a government official told the paper.

The requests raise the issue of how to keep the miners psychologically sound as they prepare for a long wait. The government said five of the miners were suffering from depression and were receiving counseling.

The private company that owns the mine, San Esteban, has said it now has no money to pay the miners' wages and is not participating in the rescue effort, which is being headed by Chile's state-owned mining company. In 2007 the mine's executives were charged with involuntary manslaughter for an accident that killed one worker.

-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City

Photo: Video still of miners trapped in Chile. Credit: Reuters via El Pais

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