We can breathe a sigh of relief; the trapped Chilean miners are finally seeing sunlight.  Taken up one-by-one (as can be seen here), they are finally free of the collapsed coal mine.  However, we should pause for a moment and realize that they are probably the exception.  In many developing countries, occupational safety is a secondary thought.  In Chile, 40% of their national product comes from mining (coal, gold, copper, etc.) and oversight can be lax at times.  In China, it is estimated that 2,631 miners were killed in China last year (with 6,995 in 2002) meaning 10 fatal accidents a day. 

What Types of Safety Hazard Are Involved in Mining?

There are usually many different laws governing the mining industry.  Often times, there are entire organizations of government bodies that are in charge of mining safety. In the U.S. mining is a heavily regulated activity requiring several different safety measures be installed, training of miners and limited hours working.  However, in China many of these mines are owned by private companies that are able to keep their records secret.  Chinese miners earn about $130 a month, which is better than many farmers, but they are not given any type of medical coverage (which quickly adds up later in life since there is little ventilation).

What Pitfalls Do Chilean Miners Face?

Given that they are now celebrities, the miners will face a rush of media people, book deals, and opportunities.  They need to be careful.  Many people will approach them offering them almost everything.  Sadly, many times those 15 minutes of fame last only a few months, then the money runs dry and people are left unsure of what to do.  It will be amazing how many people will approach the miners trying to get a small piece of their fame, aunts, uncles, cousins that they never knew they had, all will ask for just a little bit of money.  Maybe they will propose an investment, or that they need it for home repairs.  Sadly, that money is unlikely to ever be repaid.  This is the same type of curse that befalls many lottery winners.  What’s important is that they make a plan; set aside some money to have fun with, but to keep a healthy reserve after the fame wears off.  It would be best if they met with an attorney or accountant to make a strong plan.

These men are inspirations to their country, they are an inspiration to the power of the human spirit, but they must be careful that they are not taken advantage of.