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Trapped Miners in Chile Prepare for Book, Movie Deals

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Oct. 12 (Bloomberg) -- Chile’s 33 trapped miners are preparing to swap their underground shelter for the international spotlight as offers from media and moviemakers are set to match their current annual wages.

Chile’s government has trained the men on handling the media frenzy after they’re pulled out from today. Classes were conducted over phone lines threaded through drill holes almost half a mile underground where they’ve been stranded since Aug. 5 when a tunnel caved in at the San Jose copper and gold mine.

Family members camping out in the Atacama desert have obtained lawyers and received book and film offers, said Arnoldo Plaza Vega, 46, whose cousin is among the men trapped inside the mine. For some, life after the rescue may be difficult to handle, said Ana Maria Aron, who heads a post-traumatic stress unit at Chile’s Catholic University.

“It’s hard to grasp how strange it is to come out of a black hole in the ground for weeks or months into this sort of media frenzy,” said Jeff Goodell, whose book about nine Pennsylvania miners trapped for 77 hours was a New York Times bestseller. “The shock of coming into this media spotlight is almost bigger than the shock of being trapped underground.”

Already, the men have been invited to make appearances in Spain, England and Greece, and mining entrepreneur Leonardo Farkas appeared on Chilean television promising each of the miners 5 million pesos ($10,400). Their net annual wages range from 3.8 million pesos to 9 million pesos, said Darinka Darce, a friend of trapped miner Jimmy Sanchez’s family.

Some families are in talks for exclusive rights to post-rescue interviews, Plaza said.

$20,000 Offers

“I’ve heard of some offers for around $20,000 for the first television interview,” he said.

The miners reached a verbal agreement as a group about what they will make public and what will remain private, Plaza said. They plan to legalize the agreement before a notary, he said.

“They are a unified group,” Plaza said. “They were together for two months below and they’ll be together afterward. They will stick together.”

Chilean officials plan to begin extracting the miners later today after drills reached them three days ago, Mining Minister Laurence Golborne told reporters at the mine site. Workers finished installing a metal casing yesterday along less than one-sixth of the 623-meter (2,040-foot) rescue shaft.

In a bid to prepare the men for their newfound fame, Alejandro Pino, the site safety supervisor, gave the miners six hours of classes on how to talk to the media.

Mock Interviews

“We did mock interviews,” Pino told reporters. “We talked about facial expressions and the way you can communicate with your hands and your shoulders.”

The television rights to the miners’ story could be worth as much as $10,000 up front and $50,000 to $100,000 at the time of production, said Scott Manville, founder of TVFilmRights.com, an online marketplace for buying and selling the rights to real-life stories. The movie rights could eventually come with a “purchase price” of $100,000 to $500,000, Manville said in an e-mailed response to questions.

“Their lives won’t be the same after this,” Finance Minister Felipe Larrain said Oct. 8 in an interview from Washington. “They’ll be famous guys.”

The practice of authors and directors mining real-life tragedies and events isn’t new. The 1972 story of the Uruguayan rugby team stranded in the Andes Mountains for 72 days after a plane crash spawned books, documentaries and a film starring Ethan Hawke. The July 2002 rescue of nine Pennsylvania coal miners was the basis for Goodell’s book, “Our Story: 77 Hours That Tested Our Friendship and Our Faith.”

‘Dizzy’

While adjusting to the sudden fame can be tough, survivors sometimes find it just as hard to cope when the spotlight is eventually turned off, said Goodell, who followed up with the Pennsylvania miners a few years after the rescue and found that many of them suffered from post-traumatic stress.

“They’ll be famous of course; there will be books and movies, but they shouldn’t get dizzy thinking that’s the way their lives will always be,” said Ramon Sabella, one of the survivors of the 1972 plane crash in the Andes. “Fame is never permanent,” Sabella, who has visited the mine site in Chile and offered advice, said in a telephone interview from Paraguay.

For now, family members such as Norma Laques, the mother of the youngest miner, 19-year-old Jimmy Sanchez, say they are focusing on the coming rescue.

“We want to get Jimmy out of here,” Laques said. “We want to take him someplace calm so that he can rest.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Nathan Crooks in Santiago at ncrooks@bloomberg.net; Jessica Brice in Sao Paulo at jbrice1@bloomberg.net Randy Woods in Santiago at Rwoods13@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Dale Crofts at dcrofts@bloomberg.net

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