A year after the San José mine collapsed in Chile, trapping 33 miners underground for 69 days, nearly half of them are unemployed and finding life on the surface a struggle.
The miners were rescued on October 13, 2010, after spending more than two months trapped 600 metres beneath the surface of a collapsed mine in the Atacama desert. The rescue was seen around the world, and the miners were immediately thrust into the public eye.
Despite the public frenzy made over the miners, at least 15 of them remain unemployed. Some of the men have signed up to make public appearances and give motivational speeches and four — so far — have returned to mining to support themselves and their families.
Some say they can no longer work, and are asking the government to provide them with a pension. The government seems willing to pay, but the exact amount has been under negotiation for some time now, several miners told The Associated Press.
One of the 33 men, Mario Sepulveda, has managed to make a good living off his fame. He quickly became one of the most recognized miners after standing out amongst them and narrating their underground videos.
This garnered him attention worldwide and in the year following he's formed a business consulting service, hired a U.S. public relations agent and travels frequently. He even traveled with Chilean Foreign Minister Alfredo Moreno for Wednesday's inauguration of a display about the rescue at the Smithsonian Institution
Edison Pena, a miner who gained fame for singing Elvis Presley songs to keep his spirits up, has also made some public appearances since the dramatic rescue. Pena even took his Elvis impersonation to the Elvis Festival in Collingwood, Ont., in July.
But many of the miners are still troubled with dreams and anxiety made worse by the fact their momentary fame didn't end up bringing in the monetary benefits they had hoped it would.
The miners have filed negligence lawsuits demanding $10 million US from the bankrupt mine's owners and $17 million from the government for failing to enforce safety regulations, but it will likely be years until there is any payout.
Moreover, they also face criticism from some Chileans who accuse them of being ungrateful.
Rescued miner and father of six, Omar Reygadas, said he feels "misunderstood […] and a bit insulted" by people who assume the miners have lots of money and are after more when that isn't the case. He also added that the lawsuit isn't about a "slap" on the government or president.
"This isn't about the government, it isn't about the president — it's [about] some people from the state that did their jobs poorly," he said.
While they wait for word on their pensions there is a chance they could see some revenue from an upcoming film about their story. It was announced in July that the rights to the story of the miners and their rescue was sold to Black Swan producer Mike Medavoy.
Miners mark anniversary
Most of the 33 miners gathered in Friday — along with Chilean President Sebastian Pinera — to mark the one year anniversary of the mine collapse.
Osman Araya, one of the miners in attendance, said that although it was a day to remember the accident it was also a day to embrace the people that supported them globally.
After an emotional homily by Copiapo's archbishop, the miners and politicians went to the Regional Museum of Atacama, where Pinera returned to miner Jose Ojeda the note he wrote that changed everything that Aug. 22, providing the outside world with the first word that all the men had survived the collapse and were together down below.
"We're all good in the refuge, the 33," said the note.