VIVAT International had the opportunity, alongside the Working Group on Mining, to meet with Mario Sepulveda. He was one of the Chilean miners who endured the 69-day ordeal of being trapped underground. Beyond his joking nature, Mario surfaced from the mine as one of the leaders of the group who helped carry the 33 miners to survival through his humor and strong spirituality.
As we listened to Mario, he reflected significantly on the meaning of getting a second chance at life and feeling called to a clear commitment in the face of that, something he is currently expressing through his “Miners Miracle” funding work to rebuild houses for the Chilean earthquake victims. He described how through his spiritual faith, it gave him the strength to survive the ordeal. He made a promise to God that when he was out of the mine, he would stay by his side to continue to serve him. He related his experience with God in the mine by saying, “I was with God and with the devil. They fought for me, and God won.”
The rescue of the 33 miners was a blessing and victory for miners everywhere, as many similar situations don’t have such a happy ending. Miners from around the world should not have to worry about returning home after a day’s work due to the lack of safety protection in the mines. Often, in the blind pursuit of profit, safety becomes a corner that is cut, and it is demonstrated over and over again with tragedies like what happened to Mario Sepulveda and his 32 fellow workers.
When we asked Mario about his views and plans for the reformation of the mining industry in regards to safety, he spoke out about whom to hold accountable. He looked toward the government and companies who have the responsibility of the implementation of laws that serve to protect the miners and the standards within their work. Beyond the level of policy, an important role is the supervisors in the field. They are the ones responsible for maintenance of the workspace to remain up to standard with regulations and laws of safety. Since at the top level of the corporations focus is money, the supervisors need to be proactive in the implementation and remain adamant about the safety procedures necessary.
Through our meeting with Mario, we were able to understand the raw emotion and struggle of what a trapped miner went through and it further emphasizes the necessity of the rights that miners should have and the safety that needs to be implemented in the field of work.