Peru's trapped miners: the sinking of the Titanic and the miners who died
With a blogger’s eye, today I celebrate the miners who perished in the sinking of the Titanic. Their story epitomizes the story of all miners; people who go to the next ore body; the next mine; the next chance to earn an honest living; and who face dangers and death at every turn and move.
We empathize with the trapped Peruvian miners who are today’s lead mining story. May the world come to their rescue and may they live, is all we can pray.
They are but another in a long history, a long line, of miners who have faced dangers that, in a way, are the essence of life.
Until the late 19th Century, Cornwall was one of the world’s biggest exporters of copper and tin, with about 50,000 men, women and children working in more than 300 mines. At the industry’s height, the county was producing 10,000 tonnes of tin a year – about half the world’s production – and had hundreds of steam engines pumping water from mines, many of which stretched out from the South West’s peninsula under the sea. But as Cornwall’s mining industry declined, the demand for its miners’ skills increased all around the world, including in the United States. Titanic was carrying several Cornish miners bound for Michigan when it hit an iceberg on 15 April 1912 on it maiden crossing from Southampton to New York. None of them survived.
Here is a bit about the trapped Peruvian miners:
Peru’s government appealed to mining companies on Sunday for heavy equipment and experts to help free nine miners trapped for four days in an informal copper mine. Several dozen rescue workers have been using pickaxes and shovels to try to remove the 26 feet (eight meters) of collapsed earth and rock blocking the entrance of the mine, whose horizontal shaft is dug into a mountainside 175 miles (280 kilometers) southeast of Lima. Firefighters have fashioned wooden beams to support the debris removal but their relatively crude efforts prompted Mining Minister Jorge Merino to appeal for help from mining companies.
The tragedy is that the stories are all the same, and yet each is different. Is this just the story of life and living: striving; moving; working; facing the vicissitudes of existence every day; and sometimes not succeeding but dying?
Or is there something special in the choice of mining? Is it more dangerous than other ways of life? Is the individual more prone to events that may kill them?
I do not pretend to know the answers. I could, I suppose, look up the statistics, and I suspect I will find it is all a wash: miners living and moving and travelling and working, die no more frequently than others.
Yet I doubt it. Somehow the demands of a mining life are different. If you are prepared to move from the closing mine to the new, opening mine; if you are prepared to take on the unknown of a new mine, an illegal mine, or even an established mine run by venial characters; you inevitably face a greater risk of accident.
Happily, the established mining companies and countries do things better. In well-run mining companies and countries, death by mining is probably less than death by driving a car along a crowded freeway. But there are still sadly mining companies and countries where death is an ever-present danger and an all-too-often reality.
We need not name these countries. They are all too well-known. They have so far to go in making things better. They have to change whole societies and ways-of-life. It will not be any easier than changing the design of ships—no more Titanic. But as the aftermath of the Titanic disaster proved, it can be done.
Hence we can do no more than call on these countries to face reality and do what the old ship builders did: change. And save lives of honest men and women engaged in mining.