Anger in Chile over ruling on 2010 mine collapse
- 1 August 2013
- From the section Latin America & Caribbean
An investigation into the 2010 accident in Chile that left 33 miners trapped underground for more than two months has failed to find anyone responsible.
The case was closed after a prosecutor said there was not enough evidence to press charges against either the owners of the mine or regulators.
One of the miners said it was a "disgrace for justice" while a former minister called it "unbelievable".
The miners' rescue in a special capsule was followed live around the world.
"This is a disgrace to Chile's justice system,'' one of the survivors, Mario Sepulveda, told Associated Press news agency,
"It is impossible that in an accident of this magnitude no-one is held responsible. Today, I want to dig a deep hole and bury myself again, only this time, I don't want anybody to find me, he said.
One of Mr Sepulveda's colleagues said he got in touch with their lawyers as soon as he heard about the decision.
"[They] told us to be calm. We have another lawsuit, for negligence," Luis Urzua told AFP,
Former mining minister Laurence Golborne, who was in charge of the rescue operations, expressed disbelief at the decision.
He told Chilean radio Cooperativa that regulators had ordered the owners of the century-old mine to build an emergency exit, but they did not comply.
Mr Golborne said that if the measure had been implemented the miners "would not have spent 70 days trapped".
Senator Isabel Allende, daughter of the late President Salvador Allende, said the decision was "painful".
"It's hard to accept that the prosecution considers there is no-one responsible", Ms Allende told EFE.
But defence lawyer Catherine Lathrop praised the decision.
"We have always maintained that it was a regrettable accident. Just that, an accident, and neither was it possible to establish any responsibility of my clients in this case," she said.
The collapse of the San Jose mine, near the town of Copiapo, left the 33 miners completely isolated for two weeks at a depth of about 700m.
They shared emergency rations to survive until rescue workers built a small shaft which was used to send supplies to the group.
In 2012, on the second anniversary of the collapse, many of the miners attended the inauguration of a monument at the mine.
Chilean billionaire Leonardo Farkas gave each of the miners a gift of $10,000 (£6,600) after the rescue.
The miners hope that a lawsuit filed a year after the collapse accusing the National Service of Geology and Mining of having not inspected working conditions and mine safety can bring each of them reparations of $500,000 (£330,000).
The owners of the mine have been told to reimburse the government a quarter of the rescue operation which cost around $22m .