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by James Parks, Oct 13, 2010

At 12:11 a.m., Florencio Avalos, the first of 33 miners trapped for 69 days in Chile’s San Jose mine, emerged to the embrace of his family and friends. And workers, especially those who work deep in the earth in mines, let out a cheer and a deep sigh of relief. The rescue effort to free the miners, who have been in the Atacama Desert mine since Aug. 5, is going like clockwork, according to the Associated Press.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, a third-generation coal miner himself, watched the rescue at the Chilean Embassy in Washington, D.C., last night. He said, “The miners endured tribulations that thankfully few will ever face, and are emerging as an inspiration to the world.”

It is a rare blessing when the earth gives back up those that it has trapped within. Watching these brave miners return to the embrace of their families is an indescribable joy.

And while this is a happy day, we also bow our heads and remember our fallen brothers and sisters who have not returned to us, and pray for a safe future for all those who toil underground.

You can find Trumka’s statement here.

Mine Workers (UMWA) President Cecil Roberts said this should be a learning opportunity for mine regulators.

Every mine in the world, regardless of location and engineering challenges, must operate in an environment that puts the safety of miners above every other consideration.. Listening to reports of alleged safety violations at the San Jose mine, it is clear that this is a problem that recognizes no borders.

As we rejoice in the rescue of our Chilean brothers, let us also learn from the mistakes that put their lives at enormous risk.

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