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Chilean Mining Essay

Audience-Targeted Communication: Chilean Copper Mine Collapse Case Study

998 WordsJan 15th, 20184 Pages

News articles reported about thirty-three (33) miners in San Jose, Chile, who were trapped 2,500 feet below surface. Everyday, the Chilean government, rescue team composed of local and international experts, the miners' families, and international media await the outcome of the rescue mission while news about the miners' from underground were documented through notes and video conversations between the miners and their families. This rescue ordeal has been tagged as a three-week long "drama" that discussed different aspects of the event and rescue mission: the lives of the miners prior to the mine collapse, the psychological and physical health of the miners, the response to the mine collapse itself, and the issue of safety not only in the San Jose copper mine, but of all mines that are the lifeblood of many Chilean males / heads of the family.
In developing a communications plan and message for the miners' families and company employees (groups directly affected by the incident), it is critical o understand the stake of each group about the event itself and its potential or eventual outcome, whether good or bad. For the miners' families, it is critical to understand that their concern is the…

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Miner Claudio Yanez applauds as he is carried away on a stretcher after being rescued from the collapsed San Jose mine where he had been trapped with 32 other miners for over two months in 2010 near Copiapo, Chile. Hugo Infante/AP hide caption

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Hugo Infante/AP

Miner Claudio Yanez applauds as he is carried away on a stretcher after being rescued from the collapsed San Jose mine where he had been trapped with 32 other miners for over two months in 2010 near Copiapo, Chile.

Hugo Infante/AP

The disaster began on a day shift around lunchtime at a mine in Chile's Atacama Desert: Miners working deep inside a mountain, excavating for copper, gold and other minerals, started feeling vibrations. Suddenly, there was a massive explosion and the passageways of the mine filled up with a gritty dust cloud.

Deep Down Dark

The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free

by Hector Tobar

When the dust settled, the men discovered the source of the explosion: "A single block of [stone] as tall as a forty-five-story building, ha[d] broken off from the rest of the mountain and [had] fall[en] through the layers of the mine ... causing a chain reaction as the mountain above it [began] collaps[ing] too."

Thirty-three miners were sealed inside the mountain by this "megablock" of stone, some 770,000 tons of it, "twice the weight of the Empire State building." Staring at that flat, smooth wall, Luis Urzua, the crew's supervisor, thought: "It [was] like the stone they put over Jesus's tomb."

If the beginning of this horror tale seems the stuff of legend or nightmare, the conclusion is reasurringly familiar, because some 1 billion of us viewers around the world watched it unfold on live TV.

On Oct. 13, 2010, all 33 of those Chilean miners trapped for 69 days inside the San Jose Mine were raised to the surface of the earth — resurrected — through a newly drilled escape tunnel into which a capsule was slowly lowered and raised by a giant crane. It was a feat of engineering and a triumph of faith. Neither the miners buried under half a mile of rock nor their families above ground in a makeshift tent city called Campo Esperanza — "Camp Hope" — ever completely succumbed to despair, despite the fact that for 17 days, before a drill finally broke through to "The Refuge," the room where the men were gathered, no one knew whether they were alive.

Before they left The Refuge, all 33 men recognized that "their story [was] their most precious possession" and agreed to share the proceeds of any book or movie made about them. The movie, starring Antonio Banderas and Juliette Binoche, is in the works. The book has just come out: It's called Deep Down Dark, and it's written by novelist and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Hector Tobar. As real-life extreme adventure tales go, this one is a doozy — the equal, if the geographical inverse — of Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer's blockbuster about the Mount Everest climbing disaster.

Hector Tobar, a former journalist for the Los Angeles Times, spent three years and hundreds of hours interviewing all 33 miners for Deep Down Dark. Patrice Normand/Opale/Courtesy of FSG hide caption

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Patrice Normand/Opale/Courtesy of FSG

Hector Tobar, a former journalist for the Los Angeles Times, spent three years and hundreds of hours interviewing all 33 miners for Deep Down Dark.

Patrice Normand/Opale/Courtesy of FSG

Tobar had exclusive access to the miners, and while that kind of snug situation inevitably places some constraints on a storyteller, Tobar complicates the purely uplifting version of the men's ordeal, describing occasional resentments and petty thievery. Nonetheless, the most inspiring aspect of the miners' behavior was their almost immediate decision to act in solidarity. On the first day of their entombment, supervisor Urzua took off his distinctive white helmet and announced to his workers, "We are all equal now. ... There are no bosses and employees."

Some of the miners regarded Urzua's act as an abdication of responsibility; others saw it as a crucial factor that inspired their collective behavior and survival. The men organized themselves into work shifts, participated in daily prayer sessions, and rationed their emergency food supply into one meal a day of two cookies and a spoonful of tuna fish, augmented by water drained from industrial waste containers. Above ground, the mostly female crowd of the miners' families acted collectively too: banging pots and pans to get attention and shouting, "We want information," in police officers' faces.

A copy of the note sent from miners trapped in the San Jose mine. It reads: "We are well in the refuge. The 33." Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images hide caption

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Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

A copy of the note sent from miners trapped in the San Jose mine. It reads: "We are well in the refuge. The 33."

Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Tobar occasionally inserts poetic commentary into this narrative, such as when he says of the first moments of the miners' entombment that "[t]he outside has slipped into the was, because now [the men] live in a present, and perhaps a forever, of darkness." Mostly, though, Tobar wisely sticks to the journalistic method of marshaling as many details of the claustrophobic horror as he can, to make the mine and the men's ordeal vivid to the reader. He succeeds.

You're made of sterner stuff than I am if, as a reader, you can keep from tearing up at that glorious moment on Day 17 when engineers on the surface draw up that rescue drill and discover a note tied to the bit that reads: "WE ARE WELL IN THE REFUGE [SIGNED] THE 33."

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