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Chile mine collapse sounds alarm on safety standards

The Chile mine collapse, which has trapped 33 miners underground, occurred at a site where a 2007 explosion killed two people. Aid for the men is being delivered through bore holes.

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Drill work on the San Jose collapsed mine where 33 miners are trapped in Copiapo, Chile, Monday.

Roberto Candia/AP

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Trapped 2,300 feet underground, the stoicism and spirits of the 33 Chilean miners found alive after nearly three weeks continued to fuel optimism that tragedy will be averted. When Mining Minister Laurence Golborne established a phone link Monday, the miners sang Chile's national anthem.

But as a team of diggers, doctors, and psychiatrists focuses on a mammoth rescue effort that could take up to four months, the nation is grappling with how this happened, and how to prevent such a collapse in the future.

Chile has a free-market economy where the first principle is to maximize profit without any other consideration. We need to take other things into consideration, including worker security,” Augustin Latorre, spokesman for the Mining Federation, an association of 22 unions at private mines, said in a telephone interview. “The state should offer, in particular in mines, the necessary security measures and inspections. We aren't demanding that mines be closed, but that they be secure.”

3 rescues Chile miners could take hope from

On Monday, President Sebastian Piñera set up a new Commission for Worker Safety, which will release a set of recommendations by the end of November to improve workplace conditions. Chief among its tasks will be comparing national legislation to that of other nations, to create a set of best practices and a culture of prevention.

Mr. Piñera said the mine tragedy in northern Chile, 500 miles north of the capital, Santiago, should be used as a lesson moving forward.

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