Mission Accomplished Chile

Today, the world celebrates with Chile as the 33 trapped miners, one by one, reached the earth’s surface and reunited with their families.  The 68-day ordeal has drawn global attention to Chile, and today’s success highlights the remarkable spirit and admirable innovation of the Chilean people.

All day, I have been glued to my chair, riveted by video of the rescue efforts.  Just a few minutes ago, Luis Urzua, the last miner and foreman of the mining team, ascended to the surface and reunited with his family.   And as I write this, live video footage shows rescue team members—still over 2000 feet underground—holding up a banner that says “Mission Accomplished CHILE.”

This accomplishment belongs to the 33 miners.  And it belongs to the range of people who worked to bring them back to the surface:  their families, the government, engineers, doctors, other miners and many more.  It also belongs to the Chilean people, who never seemed to waver in their concern or hope.

I also have to say that this is a truly global story.  The Chileans were not alone in this experience; the entire world was watching and supporting them.  During the rescue efforts, about 1400 journalists from over 200 countries were on site, bringing updates about the miners to their audiences. 

In the days to come, the miners will be monitored carefully for a variety of health concerns.  In the weeks and months to come, the safety regulations and standards of the mining industry will surely be reviewed by the government.  Hopefully, this review will entail more than just operational safety concerns; it should also include public health concerns and energy use.  A new report showed that the mining industry’s greenhouse gas emissions have almost doubled in the past decade, largely due to inefficient mines and the coal-fired plants used to power them.  The International Energy Agency (IEA) noted that mining industry accounts for more than 90% of the energy consumption in Chile’s northern electric grid, and therefore is a major player in the national energy sector.  This reliance on coal and lack of efficiency, noted in this most recent report, surely has far-reaching effects on both the energy grid and on public health.  The IEA suggested that, as a way to address its energy and emissions issues, Chile’s government hold an open, public debate about its energy future. 

Today, however, belongs to the story at hand, and the government’s hands are full.  President Sebastian Piñera has been at the San Jose Mine all day, hugging each miner as he exited the rescue capsule, “Phoenix 2.”  The words he is speaking now to the miners, to the country and to the world, make an important point.  He says:  “Tonight we have experienced a night that we will never forget.  Full of emotion, full of joy.  Each time I had the chance to hug the miners they were so happy because they were experiencing a kind of rebirth.  And I think today Chile is … stronger than it was before.

Rescue mission accomplished, indeed.  Felicidades, Chile.