Chile's Pinera to protect mine safety whistleblowers.
Sebastian Pinera tells BBC's HARDtalk his country will never be the same again, Chile's President Sebastian Pinera has vowed to protect workers who draw attention to unsafe work practices.
Speaking to BBC's HARDtalk programme, Mr Pinera said Chile would do "whatever is necessary to have a more secure mining industry". Mr Pinera, whose international profile has been boosted by the dramatic rescue of 33 miners, is currently in London.
He will later meet the Queen and Prime Minister David Cameron and present them with rocks taken from inside the mine.
He told the BBC's HARDtalk programme that during the 17 days before the miners were located in the shelter 700m (2,300ft) underground, he had always believed they would be rescued. "I had a kind of inner voice that told me all the time they are alive," he said. When asked if the rescue had been a miracle, Mr Pinera said he believed it was "not only human effort" that had achieved the end result. "I won't say it was a miracle, but I will say that we got some very important help," he said.
'Fear culture over'
The men were trapped in the San Jose gold and copper mine by a rockfall on 5 August. Mr Pinera placed the blame for the accident on the mine's owners, saying they had failed to follow regulations. But he said the government also "might have been negligent in the sense that it didn't make sure the regulations were being fulfilled".
The San Esteban mining firm - which is close to being declared bankrupt because of the cost of the rescue - has previously denied accusations that it ignored safety guidelines.
There has also been criticism from some of the mine workers that there was a culture of fear at the pit, with miners unwilling to speak out over safety concerns because they were afraid of losing their jobs. Trade unions have been pressing Mr Pinera to ratify International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 176, which commits governments to enforcing safety regulations and offering protection for any miner who raises safety concerns.
This was called for by the National Union of Mineworkers at this years TUC in Manchester in their Emergency Motion on the trapped Chilean Miners which was fully supported by congress.
Mr Pinera said his country would ratify the convention and that if there was a culture of fear it was over. "We have initiated a country effort to create a new treatment in terms of how to protect the lives, integrity, dignity and health of our workers," he said. "If we want to be a developed country, we need to develop first world standards."
He said the government "cannot guarantee that we will not have accidents in the future, but we can guarantee that we will do whatever is necessary to have a more secure mining industry".
Mr Pinera rejected criticisms of his leadership style from some government colleagues, and suggestions that he was unfairly capitalising on the rescue for his own political gain. He said he had been involved in the operation even before the miners were found to be alive and that "a real leader has to be hands on, committed, with passion".
Doctors treating 30 freed miners still in hospital in Chile say at least 10 of them will be discharged on Friday.
Three of the men were allowed home on Thursday and officials at the hospital in the northern town of Copiapo say the rest are in "very good shape".
Health Minister Jaime Manalich told reporters that all the men were likely to have a hard psychologically.
Late on Thursday, Edison Pena, Juan Illanes and Bolivian Carlos Mamani were greeted by cheering neighbours as they arrived home.
None of the men has given a detailed account of their time trapped in the mine, but Juan Illanes described the first 17 days of the ordeal as a nightmare, before they were discovered by rescue workers.
No details have been given of the men who will next be given permission to leave hospital but Mr Manalich said all 30 were in good condition, despite problems that many have had with their eyes and teeth.
Mario Gomez, 63, is on a course of antibiotics for acute pneumonia and the health minister said he, too, was doing well.
Mr Manalich said the miners would be closely monitored over the next six months and predicted that a very hard time lay ahead of them.
"They have to adapt to a new life. Therefore we are prepared to stay with them and to work at least in the next six months," he said.
He added that the men's salaries would be paid for at least the next month and the government was committed to finding them new jobs.
9 October 2010
Rescuers have drilled through to the underground chamber where 33 Chilean miners have been trapped since August.
The breakthrough at the San Jose mine came shortly after 0800 local time (1200 GMT), sparking celebrations.
It means efforts to remove the miners through the tunnel should begin within days.
The men were trapped when part of the mine collapsed on 5 August - their 65-day ordeal is the longest suffered by a group of miners caught underground.
They have been living in a shelter 700m (2,300ft) underground. However, the Plan B drill - the second of three which have been working simultaneously - has penetrated 624m to a workshop which can be reached by the miners.
Officials say everything needed for the rescue is now in place.
However, they still need to determine whether the miners can be winched up through the exposed rock, or if they will have to wait for the shaft to be encased with steel piping.
Huge cranes have been brought in to lower the metal casing if it is needed. Tests are expected to take hours, possibly days, and Chile's Mining Minister Laurence Golborne has warned that it will be three to eight days before the rescue mission can begin.
The layers of rock nearest to the surface are crumbly and loose and will definitely need casting.
This is a highly symbolic moment - effectively marking the end of the drilling process. But it's not the end of this ordeal for the miners.
But if the authorities decide not to encase the rescue shaft all the way down to miners, the effort to pull them out could begin within a few days.
Once the tunnel is secured, the rescue team will set up a winch at the top of it and lower a specially designed escape capsule down to the miners, and only then will they be brought up to the surface.
The National Union of Miners wishes the 33 miners a speedy and safe conclusion to their ordeal, and that they are soon returned to their families.
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