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14 November 2018
In 2010 33 miners in Northern Chile were trapped 700 meters underground for 65 days, attracting the world's attention and concern, as well as relief and admiration when they were rescued. In the years following, the miners were offered economic and moral relief, lifelong pensions, travel and even roles in films, books and on talk shows around the world. Notwithstanding this, most of them have had difficulty recovering their lives, had a hard time finding or keeping work or have experienced depression. This may explain why 31 of the 33 miners filed a lawsuit against three state agencies – the National Mining Service, the Regional Health Service and the Labour Inspectorate – for compensation of moral damages amounting to approximately €9.835 million. The damages include the feelings of impotence, profound depression, despair and fear of death that they experienced while trapped underground.
In its defence, the state argued that the large resources spent in rescuing and compensating the miners (approximately €8.63 million) – including lifetime pensions, medical coverage and various trips abroad to give exposure to their experience – protected their moral suffering. The defence also claimed that the state agencies could not be considered negligent, as the lack of safety measures that led to the accident were caused by their employer, not by the state agencies in charge of controlling them.
On 24 August 2018 the Ninth Civil Court of Santiago decided that the state agencies had been negligent in protecting the occupational safety of the miners and ordered the Chilean Treasury to pay approximately €101,523 to each of the 31 miners. This ruling was despite the fact that the employer also failed to comply with the required mandatory standards on occupational safety.
The State Litigation Council has filed an appeal to this decision.
For further information on this topic please contact Ignacio Garcia or Fernando Villalobos at Porzio Rios Garcia by telephone (+56 22 729 0600) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com). The Porzio Rios Garcia website can be accessed at www.porzio.cl.
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