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Strong Minded Miners in Chile
Old 08-24-2010, 02:23 PM   #1
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Strong Minded Miners in Chile

Chile's trapped miners could be stuck until Christmas - Telegraph

Rescuers discovered the trapped men when they heard hammering noises.
The men were working at the San Jose gold and copper mine near the city of Copiapo, 500 miles north of Santiago, at a depth of around 2,300 ft when the rock above them collapsed on Aug 5.
But amid the joy of the news of their survival, Andres Sougarret, the engineer in charge of the mission, said it could take months to free the men from their underground prison.
It would take "at least 120 days" to carve a second shaft that was wide enough for the miners to be pulled up one-by-one.
A camera lowered down the bore hole on Sunday showed the miners sweaty and shirtless in the hot (32-36 degrees Celsius, 90-97 Fahrenheit) shelter, but in apparently good condition and high spirits.
"Many of them approached the camera and put their faces right up against it, like children, and we could see happiness and hope in their eyes," Chile's president said, adding that the images had given him "a lot of happiness and faith that this is going to end well".

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Old 08-24-2010, 03:14 PM   #2
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When I read of these various mine accidents and the miners trapped in there, I just can't help but wish there was some way to enforce higher safety standards. How much would it really add to the price of a pound of copper, or a ton of coal to have additional exits drilled along the way?

IIRC in one of the other cases, the equipment to get them out was days away (and probably more days of drilling), while they had about a 1/2 day of oxygen in their supply kits. That's just not right.

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Old 08-24-2010, 03:35 PM   #3
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They'd have to send me down a lot of Xanax.
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Old 08-24-2010, 03:45 PM   #4
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How much would it really add to the price of a pound of copper, or a ton of coal to have additional exits drilled along the way?
The potash mines around here usually have two shafts. It costs more than $300 million to drill one.
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Old 08-24-2010, 04:06 PM   #5
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The potash mines around here usually have two shafts. It costs more than $300 million to drill one.
Oh, I'm sure it isn't cheap. But how many millions of tons of Potash do they take out? It would be interesting to see what it would mean at the retail level. I'm guessing (and that's all it is at this point), that it would be pretty small.

IIRC in one of the coal mine disasters, the mine itself was not very deep (~ 1500 ft?), it went mostly horizontal, following the vein of coal. Digging more shafts to at least pass air, water & food if not humans couldn't be all that outrageously expensive I would not think. But I'm no mine expert, just a consumer who really would not mind paying a little more to have some faith that these miners have more protection.

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Old 08-24-2010, 04:39 PM   #6
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It's almost more than I can bear to think about those men and their families.
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Old 08-24-2010, 05:20 PM   #7
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It's almost more than I can bear to think about those men and their families.
They may well need some serious PTSD help when they come out. At least, I know I would. I would have gone totally nuts after the first half an hour.

I wouldn't be surprised if we didn't see some "soap opera" aspects to it, as well. Regular TV interviews with their wives, asking the kids "how does it feel having Christmas with Daddy down a mine", that sort of stuff.

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When I read of these various mine accidents and the miners trapped in there, I just can't help but wish there was some way to enforce higher safety standards. How much would it really add to the price of a pound of copper, or a ton of coal to have additional exits drilled along the way?
It's engineering, and engineering is a synonym for "trade-off". Many mines are not hugely profitable, and it could be that the cost of drilling twice as many tunnels - and keeping them all dry, ventilated, and clear of debris - would be the difference between closing and staying open.

Having extra safety equipment is also a compromise. Should the Titanic have had more lifeboats, or better collision avoidance? There's a budget. There's always a budget - until 2005, the budget for the death benefit of a US soldier was $12,420.

Ultimately, conditions for workers come down to what they can negotiate and/or lobby lawmakers for. Chile isn't the Wild West, but it's not Sweden either.
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Old 08-24-2010, 07:34 PM   #8
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It's almost more than I can bear to think about those men and their families.
Same here - there can not be a worse feeling than being buried alive, or not knowing if your loved ones are even still alive. And to think that it could take 4 months to rescue them. I hope they're rescued safely far sooner than that.
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Old 08-24-2010, 08:05 PM   #9
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It's engineering, and engineering is a synonym for "trade-off".
I certainly understand that. The problem in a case like this is, who has a say in the trade-off decision? If it just the profit makers, and they aren't that afraid of lawsuits, they will take shortcuts. This stuff is not transparent to the buyers of copper or potash or electricity. I don't have a choice of buying kWhrs produced by people who mine coal with poor safety, versus paying a bit more for better safety.

It's not just Chile, the other mine issues I mentioned were in the US. We need better regulations, better transparency or both. These are not one-off issues, there's been a string of them, and while they are not completely preventable, I think they can improve the rescue system.

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Old 08-24-2010, 11:07 PM   #10
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Oh, I'm sure it isn't cheap. But how many millions of tons of Potash do they take out? It would be interesting to see what it would mean at the retail level. I'm guessing (and that's all it is at this point), that it would be pretty small.
Let's look at the biggest of the bunch, POT. They produce about 10-12 million tons per year from 5 mines with 10 shafts. Let's say 1 million tons per shaft. Potash is selling for about $350 / ton meaning revenues of approx $350 M per shaft. Building a shaft would cost 10% of revenues, not profit. For every shaft dug, prices would have to climb 10% for the company to break even.
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