Chile to Overhaul Mine Supervision as Workers Remain Trapped for Fifth Day

Chile’s government plans to overhaul the supervision of mining operations in the country as more than 30 workers remained trapped in an underground mine for a fifth day, President Sebastian Pinera said.

“We are going to accelerate legislation that was under review to completely revise all regulations to ensure mining activity provides more guarantees, tranquility and security to workers,” Pinera said today from Santiago in televised remarks.

The miners were trapped Aug. 5 after an access tunnel caved in at Cia. Minera San Esteban Primera SA’s San Jose copper and gold mine in northern Chile’s Atacama region. Companies including BHP Billiton Ltd. have joined the rescue effort, Mining Minister Laurence Golborne said in an interview with TVN. Authorities have sought advice on the rescue from countries including Peru, Canada, the U.S. and Australia, Pinera said.

The government plans to restructure Sernageomin, the country’s mining and geological service, and will seek out and sanction those responsible for the accident, Pinera said after cutting short a trip to Colombia, where he has scheduled to attend Juan Manuel Santos’s swearing-in as president.

“We’ve been able to determine in the case of San Jose that in many mining operations the safety of our workers is not being taken into consideration as it should,” Pinera said.

Opposition senators Guido Girardi and Fulvio Rossi plan to introduce legislation that would increase penalties for companies that fail to comply with safety standards, according to a statement posted today on the Senate website.

“Workers die every year in mining accidents and we’ve realized that a lot of times the company’s negligence is the cause,” Girardi said.

Rescue efforts are focused on drilling from the surface to deliver food, water and fresh air after an attempt to enter the mine’s main access was abandoned because of concerns over rescuers safety, emergency agency Onemi said on its website.

Pedro Simonevic, San Esteban executive, told reporters Aug. 6 that the accident “couldn’t have been foreseen” and that the company is looking into reasons for the collapse. He said a July 3 accident at the mine resulting in an injury was unrelated.

To contact the reporters responsible for this story: Randy Woods at rwoods13@bloomberg.net

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