Chile: A Miracle–or a Hostage Release?

The first Chilean miner to surface, Florencio Avalos (ITN News).

“What a moment!” the ITN reporter exclaimed. And as one Chilean miner after another rose to the surface, with hugs all around, who could disagree? “It seems nothing short of a miracle from God,” Mr. ITN concluded.

But think of it this way: The Chilean mine crisis is something like a hostage crisis. As the miners are released from their imprisonment, one is forced to ask: Just who were the hostage-takers? Who profited from their ordeal?

And to what sort of life do the miners return? Will they be celebrity authors of a tell-all book? The New York Times has already reported infighting among them over just who will write their book…and just how many families will share in the royalties. Or will most return to a daily grind of hazardous and arduous below-ground labor?

Mining remains an extremely dangerous occupation, with the Chilean crisis being only the most recent of heart-rending occurrences. Have we already forgotten the West Virginia mine disaster of last spring at Upper Big Branch, which killed 29 American miners?

Let’s not lose sight of what’s really going on here. It’s great that the miners all got Oakley sunglasses and chicken with plums as a final below-ground meal– and that the Chilean President got a boost in his approval rating. It’s great that all the miners have escaped their ordeal. But the planet’s dependence on carbon-based energy–and on the companies that hold us hostage–is a continuing crisis for us all.

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