The rescue of 33 miners at San Jose Mine in the Atacama dessert in Northern Chile has been at the very centre of global media attention. And this is no surprise because this situation has brought together a series of factors that have put to the test the human capacity for survival, solidarity, faith, courage, hope, tenacity and perseverance (we’ll get them out of the centre of the earth, whatever it takes). No effort was spared to save their lives. Perhaps the best word to describe the will to do everything possible for the good of these people is magnanimity.
When, a few days after the accident, evidence seemed to suggest that the miners could be dead, people worked relentlessly, using topographical information in an attempt to establish contact with them. When the governmental authorities doubted that anyone could have survived, relatives campaigned time and time again for the work to continue, as they were convinced that their kin were still alive.
And work continued day and night. The most highly professional and technologically skilled team of qualified mining engineers, geo-mechanics, geologists and systems operators was formed. Jeff Hard from the United States was brought in from Afghanistan, who, after many exhausting days of work succeeded in getting the pipeline to reach the miners’ refuge. The most advanced drilling machine technology was used. From the moment they discovered that the 33 men were alive they were sent food, medicine, music and games through the tiny communication hole. A team of psychologists and doctors were constantly on call to support their mental and physical health, providing them with tools to help them deal as best they could with this situation as individuals and as a group.
There were three concurrent rescue plans in operation: A, B and C and within plan B there was also a sub-B plan. With the use of the T-130, operated by Jeff Hard, they finally managed to break through. 10,000 litres of diesel were used every day. And there was a nigh unbeatable level of efficiency in the management of this rescue operation.
From the moment it unfurled family members refused to leave the scene of the tragedy. They set up tents and established what would become known as Camp Hope. They wouldn’t be moved. They withstood cold and discomfort. After a few days help began to arrive for them too. A large tent was put up to serve as kitchen/ dining room and women from Caldera, the neighbouring town, prepared food for them all. Food and other donations to help make life in the settlement easier began to arrive. A large quantity of anonymous and private donations and other contributions came from all over the world in support of this enormous task. The rescue team did nonstop 24-hour shifts. In other words no resource was spared, but nor was it wasted: everything was used in order to save the lives of 33 people.
Faced with situations such as this one stingy criterion cannot be used to determine actions. This can also be said of normal life, stinginess doesn’t create life, instead it reduces it. We cannot give scarce resources to what we deem to be a priority need. We cannot measure magnanimous resources. They are given voluntarily and cannot be counted with numerical parameters.
At Camp Hope in the San Jose Mine magnanimity has been given clearly and resolutely, this is not a waste of resources, it is a way of putting all our means towards a good cause, and what better cause than saving 33 lives? But beyond rescuing human lives, hope and humanity have also been rescued. This is what operation San Lorenzo has achieved. And, in this context, it is irrelevant to think about the millions of dollars that have been spent on this operation.
Lourdes Flavią (Anthropologist)
Chiu Chiu - Calama- Chile