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Chilean Miners Sue Govt. for $541K Each

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on July 18, 2011 12:57 PM

Nearly every one of the formerly-trapped Chilean miners are suing the government, each asking for more than $500,000 in damages. The Chilean miners' lawsuit was filed in order to prevent similar accidents from occurring in the future, according to the miners.

The miners made headlines last year when an accident trapped them inside the mine located in San Jose, Chile, for 69 days, reports CNN.

The lawsuit targets the agency in charge of mining safety, according to CNN. And, the miners say that the lawsuit isn't about the money - it's about setting a safety precedent.

At first, when the mine collapsed, Chile's Mining Minister Laurence Goldbourne said that the mining laws were not to blame, and that the mining laws would have ensured safety down in the mine - if the regulations had been followed, according to CNN.

But, Chile's President Sebastian Pinera later announced that the country would be adopting stricter mining regulations on par with U.S. regulations, and that it would ensure that the regulations were met, reports CNN.

However, those familiar with mining in the U.S. would also know that while the U.S. may have tighter mining regulations, mining disasters and accidents are also not a thing of the past. In April 2010, the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia exploded, killing 29 mine workers.

An investigation into the West Virginia mine explosion revealed that Massey Energy, the mine owner, had kept two sets of safety records: one for federal mine safety inspectors to review, and another one that was only used internally, reports NPR.

Families of the mine workers who were killed in the explosion have filed lawsuits against Massey alleging negligence and that the company failed to ensure workers' safety.

So, while Pres. Pinera's promise of tougher new regulations may be sincere, the Chilean miner lawsuit may be useful in ensuring that any new regulations will be met with stricter screening processes as well. In total, 31 of the 33 Chilean miners are suing, and it's unclear why not all of them decided to pursue legal action.

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