Skip to main content

Case closed: No charges filed over Chile mine collapse

By Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
updated 1:25 PM EDT, Fri August 2, 2013
A capsule carrying a rescued miner surfaces on October 13, 2010, by the collapsed San Jose mine in Chile.
A capsule carrying a rescued miner surfaces on October 13, 2010, by the collapsed San Jose mine in Chile.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A regional prosecutor says there isn't enough evidence to file charges
  • Outraged miners say they'll appeal the decision
  • An attorney for the mine's owners says the company is not responsible
  • Miner: "This was done ... by the negligence of man"

(CNN) -- Who's to blame for the mine collapse that trapped 33 workers underground for months in Chile?

No one, according to prosecutors, who closed the case Thursday after a lengthy investigation.

Nearly three years after the collapse at the San Jose mine in Copiapo, Chile, prosecutors said, there's not enough evidence to file criminal charges.

The 2010 mining accident drew global attention as word spread that the workers had survived and rescuers worked for weeks to free them.

For 17 days after the collapse, nobody knew if they were alive. The miners spent 69 days underground before they were rescued.

"This was a complicated case, which is why it took us so long to make this determination," regional prosecutor Hector Mella Farias said. "And I want to be clear in saying that everything to collect evidence that the law allows was done."

2010: Chilean miners rescued
2010: Miners honored at CNN Heroes

Authorities investigated the case for years, he said, compiling expert analysis and testimonies that totaled more than 20,000 pages.

Two outraged miners told CNN Chile late Thursday that they plan to appeal the regional prosecutor's decision.

The owners of the mine should be held responsible in a criminal case, they said, alleging that the company knew there was a risk of collapse and didn't do enough to protect workers. The miners have also filed a negligence lawsuit against the government, accusing the agency that oversees mining of failing to ensure safety measures.

"Today we heard the decision, as did many of our colleagues, and many of them are extremely shocked," said Luis Urzua, the miners' shift boss and the last man rescued from the mine. "Because this is something that places responsibility upon the mine owners, because they are the entity that must supervise what happens. As supervisors, they should have prevented it. They should have known what sectors were at risk of collapsing."

The miners want future accidents to be prevented, he said, and they want the mine's owners to be held accountable.

"We want for this never to happen again," he said. "What happened to us was not a work of nature. This was done by a man, by the negligence of man."

Attorneys for the mine's owners told CNN Chile on Thursday that the prosecutor's decision indicated that natural causes sparked the accident, and the company's owners are not responsible.

"This decision wasn't made on a whim," said attorney Catherine Lathrop. "It is part of a long investigative process."

Miner Juan Carlos Aguilar said the miners aren't looking for money, but they do want justice. And comments like Lathrop's, he said, show that they haven't gotten that yet.

"She is laughing at what happened to us," he said. "I think any miner is going to feel the same way. If they did nothing for us, when we were trapped for 70 days 700 meters underground, what is going to happen when there's another incident? ... Any person can do anything in Chile, and there is no justice."

CNN's Samuel Santamaria and Rafael Romo contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:54 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
A decade on from devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the Red Cross' Matthias Schmale says that the lessons learned have made us safer.
updated 7:24 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
As soon as word broke that "The Interview" will hit some theaters, celebrations erupted across social media -- including from the stars of the film.
updated 1:44 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Did a rogue hacker -- or the U.S. government -- cut the cord for the regime's Internet?
updated 8:06 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Monaco's newborn royals, Princess Gabriella and Crown Prince Jacques Honore Rainier, posed for their first official photos with their parents.
updated 12:06 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Tim Berners-Lee, the man credited with inventing the world wide web, gives a speech on April 18, 2012 in Lyon, central France, during the World Wide Web 2012 international conference on April 18, 2012 in Lyon.
What's next for the Internet? Acclaimed scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee shares his insights.
updated 3:22 AM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
The United States and North Korea have long been locked in a bitter cycle of escalating and deescalating tensions. But the current cyber conflict may be especially hard to predict.
updated 4:00 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
A chilling video shows Boko Haram executing dozens of non-Muslims.
updated 6:34 AM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
New planes, new flight tests ... but will we get cheaper airfares?
updated 12:46 PM EST, Sun December 21, 2014
The killing of two cops could not have happened at a worse time for a city embroiled in a public battle over police-community relations, Errol Louis says.
updated 9:51 PM EST, Sun December 21, 2014
The gateway to Japan's capital, Tokyo Station, is celebrating its centennial this month -- and it has never looked better.
updated 11:21 AM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
Unicef has warned that more than 1.7 million children in conflict-torn areas of eastern Ukraine face an "extremely serious" situation.
updated 12:01 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT