San José Mine (Los 33) & Atacama Tumbleweed


Today I drove with Marielle, the woman I am staying with in Caldera, and her friend Patricia into the desert. We passed the turning for the San José Mine, the desert mine where 33 miners were trapped for 69 days after it collapsed on 5 August, 2010. Both women live near the mine, but had not been there before. We drove up. The mine is not open to the public, and one caretaker/ security guard sits in the hut at the mine´s entrance.  Neither of the women knew any of the miners, who came from other places for the work. There remains a lot of controversy around the events: the media attention, the upcoming film, the lawsuits, the work, money, mental health problems that the miners have had. Opinions are divided and often raw. Caldera is still a centre for mining, hundreds of men are bussed from nearby mines every night to eat and sleep in the town.


33 flags to represent the 33 miners who were trapped  2,297 feet underground in the San José Mine, near Caldera in the Atacama Desert, for 69 days after the mine collapsed on 5 August 2010.

Entry is not permitted, although the main sites are marked by flags. The family waiting camp, the opening to the mine, the site where the famous note (Estamos bien en refugio los 33) surfaced, having been attached to a probe that hit the part of the mine in which the miners were sheltering, and the spot above ground where the miners emerged after 69 days underground, watched by what seemed like the whole world.
 The opening to the mine.
 A film is being made about Los 33, it is an American-Chilean co-production directed by Patricia Riggen and written by Mikko Alanne & Jose Rivera.  Antonio Banderas is playing Mario ´Super Mario´Sepúlveda, who became the spokesman for the miners. Here Marielle and Patricia (Marielle´s friend – not the film´s director) are checking out Banderas in a newspaper story about the film.
  José and the dogs are the caretakers of the mine, which is now under new ownership. 
 On the way back we played with tumbleweed in the desert.