Viva Chile, no mas — no to underground mining!

FOR a brief time, the hearts and minds of the people of the world were in unison. Everyone, including Jamaicans, who was aware of the rescue of miners trapped more than half a mile below ground level rejoiced at their miraculous good fortune.

Thirty-three miners had spent 68 days underground without knowing if a rescue was going to be possible, without seeing daylight or breathing fresh air. These are the basic things of normal life which we take for granted regardless of our lot in life. The terror and uncertainty of the miners was shared by their families, loved ones and friends.

The Chilean Government must be praised for their determination and decisive action to rescue the miners and the international community must be thanked for the technical expertise and equipment provided. The Government of Chile did everything possible to ensure the survival of the miners until they could be rescued, and allowed the world to see on live television the moment of great joy.

Each year hundreds of miners die horrible deaths in the bowels of the earth from the United States to China. Mining, since the dawn of mankind, has been a notoriously dangerous and unhealthy profession that only the most desperate are prepared to abide in order to eke out a living.

Those who do not die in accidents often die relatively young from illnesses, such as lung disease contracted especially in the coal mines. It has been an industry that relied in its early days on slave labour because nobody was willing to do that type of work. Indeed it was only the compulsion of hunger and abject poverty that forced desperate men to go down the mines.

The industry in the past mercilessly exploited child labour and abused animals such as canaries, dogs and donkeys. Mining companies to the present are infamous for their neglect of safety standards, disregard for human rights and the payment of the lowest possible levels, barely above subsistence.

Mining frequently is harmful to the surrounding environment and the people who live in the vicinity of mining operations. Jamaica’s red mud lakes are a graphic example.

Safety standards must be improved and enforced, and where not observed should be punished not only financially but by jail sentence for those responsible of the negligence, both at the company level and those in regulatory agencies.

Ultimately men going thousands of feet down into the earth should be an occupation of the past. It is time to modernise by using computerguided machines and robots.

Nothing is more valuable than human life and therefore, neither diamond nor gold should reduce men to animals wading waist deep in mud or clawing for nuggets in 100 degree heat in crevices fit only for vermin.

Viva Chile: praise for the Chilean government and people for their humanitarian treatment and rescue of the miners but we say ‘no mas’ to the inhumane and unsafe profession of underground mining.

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