Year After Cave-In, Chilean Miners Sift Through Trauma A year after a copper mine in Chile trapped 33 men underground for 69 days, almost all of the miners battle with post-traumatic stress. An upcoming movie about the miners' experience may offer a new chance to unify them and bring back the attention they received following the collapse.
NPR logo

A Year Later, Chilean Miners Sift Through Trauma

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
A Year Later, Chilean Miners Sift Through Trauma

A Year Later, Chilean Miners Sift Through Trauma

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


What made you want to follow the lives of these men after they escaped the mine?

M: Well, I've been a journalist long enough to know that fame is very fleeting. And you could kind of see this set-up, where these working-class heroes were dumped into the media treadmill. These guys had no idea how to work with the media with this dose of fame. And it's also a bit of a schizophrenic existence. You know, one day they're in a five-star hotel in Tel Aviv and then right after, that they fly home to Chile - where maybe they don't even have running water.

INSKEEP: Well, how many of them ended up trying to go back to their old lives, just be miners again?

M: But I remember one of them explaining that he lasted two minutes, and he was so scared that he got dizzy and he ran out of the mine. Another man, when he started looking at the mouth of the mine, he started crying. And I said to him, but Victor, you're out, you survived. And he said yeah, but my happiness is still inside there.

INSKEEP: I wonder about post-traumatic stress. Did any of them suffer from what could be diagnosed as post-traumatic stress after this experience?

M: When I speak to these men, they talk about going to the psychiatrist, taking lots and lots of pills. But you get this sense, when you talk to them, that there's been no collective or group effort to solve these traumas.

INSKEEP: So 32 of the 33 were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress. What about the one?

M: The only one who wasn't was the preacher, and he really was able to avoid a lot of the psychological problems. His unbending faith, and his leadership role, really allowed him to have done very well. He really seems to have skirted a lot of the problems that torment his fellow miners.

INSKEEP: It's troubling to hear this because these miners were such an inspiration to people at the time because they worked together under pressure, because they organized a little society for a while. And it is sad to hear that there's an aftermath to that. There's still a price for them to pay.

M: And a lot of that group feeling fell apart. By the end, they were even sending back the food saying, you know, the desserts aren't warm enough. Or they would send back their iPods saying that they didn't like the music selection. So there's this real dichotomy between the union they had when they were completely cut off from the world and they had their own society, and this bickering and conflicts that began once the television and other so-called conveniences were put down to them.

INSKEEP: I wonder if that change is going to be reflected in the movie that's going to be made of them, now that they've just recently sold the movie rights.

M: It's hard to know about the movie. We've heard lots of rumors, and there's been all sorts of speculation. But I think that this is finally the real deal. In this case, they've been very unified, and the 33 men have agreed to share all revenue from the movie. And they have a great Hollywood producer, a big team behind them. So I think that they finally will get their movie off the ground. And that should be a huge psychological boost as well as some cash. I think that the men need to feel loved again. They feel abandoned at this point.

INSKEEP: Journalist Jonathan Franklin wrote a book, called "33 Men," about the Chilean miners who were rescued a year ago. Thanks very much.

M: Thank you.


INSKEEP: This is NPR News.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.