Three of the 33 rescued Chilean miners were celebrating at home today after being released from hospital with a clean bill of health.
All the rest of the miners were expected to be out of hospital over the weekend.
“We don’t see any problems of a psychological or a medical nature,” said Dr Jorge Montes, deputy director of the Copiapo Regional Hospital.
As the men prepared for a new life in the glare of publicity, relatives said they were not yet ready to speak at length publicly about their ordeal because they want to fairly divide the spoils of their overnight media stardom.
So far few dramatic details have emerged of their 69 days trapped a half mile beneath the Atacama desert.
A daughter of Omar Reygadas, a 56-year-old electrician, said in an interview today that he told her just hours earlier that the miners have agreed to divide all their earnings from interviews, media appearances, films or books.
“He also said we can’t say things to the media without their permission,” said Ximena Alejandra Reygadas, 37. “He said they need to decide what we can tell the media.”
Hundreds of reporters abandoned the mine and descended on the provincial capital of Copiapo after the world watched in awe the nearly flawless rescue through a narrow shaft.
A shift foreman at the San Jose mine who is close to many of the men said they have hired an accountant to track their income from public appearances and equitably distribute it.
“More than anything, I think the idea is to charge for the rights to everything that’s been shown about their personal life, of their odyssey. That way, they’re safe,” said Pablo Ramirez.
Ramirez, 29, had lowered himself deep into the mine right after its August 5 collapse in a vain attempt to reach his comrades.
“They’re going to be very close to the chest and will speak together as a group,” he said.
Ramirez is out of a job with the roughly 360 other San Jose miners now that the government has decided to close it as unsafe.
But the rescued men are in demand worldwide – a Greek mining company wants to give them a holiday on the sunny Aegean islands. Manchester United and Real Madrid have invited them to their stadiums.
TV appearances are also on offer.
Solidarity helped the men survive the angst and uncertainty of being trapped under a 700,000-ton block that collapsed at the very centre of the mine.
For the first two weeks, no one knew whether “los 33” were alive.
After contact was made, a team of government psychologists divided them into groups, set their work and sleep schedule, restricted the television and films they could see. The miners were even barred from receiving iPods along with everything else fed them through the five and a half inch pipe that served as their lifeline to the surface.
The chief psychologist, Alberto Iturra, left little to chance and the assessment of the doctors who treated them was glowing.
Ramirez scoffed at the need for all the psychological treatment.
“When we first spoke to the miners down below ... they weren’t in bad shape,” he said.
“Psychologically, they weren’t in bad shape at all.”
But being thrust from the dark chambers of a gold mine into the limelight – and knowing how to cope with overnight fame – is quite another matter.
No one before them had been trapped so long and survived.
Among the most compelling stories will be Luis Urzua’s – the shift foreman whose strict food rationing helped the miners stay alive until help came.
Based on new details the miners shared with their families, the rationing appears to have been even more extreme than previously thought.
“He told me they only had 10 cans of tuna to share, and water, but it isn’t true the thing about milk, because it was bad, out of date,” Alberto Sepulveda said after visiting his brother Dario.
Other family members were told the tuna amounted to about half a capful from the top of a soda bottle – and that the only water they could drink tasted of oil.
The miners told relatives their rescue ride was as smooth as a skyscraper lift.
The cause of the collapse remains under formal investigation, but one senior official of state mining firm Codelco official, who asked not to be named, said that the mine’s owners had cut corners for years. “It lacked even a minimal amount of support beams.”
Ramirez acknowledged the corner-cutting.
Twenty-seven of the 33 miners who were trapped are suing the owners.
The miners said it felt like an earthquake when the shaft finally collapsed above them, filling the lower reaches of the mine with suffocating dust. It took three hours before they could even begin to see, Urzua said.
Why any of them would go back underground may be hard for outsiders to understand. But most of these men have known no other work.
“Some of them will use other talents that they have – and can earn a lot of money now that they’re famous,” said Ramirez.
“But I think most will go back to the mines.”
- A 26-year-old miner was crushed by a rockfall at the Boton de Oro mine in Petorca state yesterday.