Rewards For Miners Rescued In Chile

SAN JOSÉ MINE, Chile — The lucky ones now have more than $10,000 in the bank and a free vacation in Greece awaiting them. But for the moment, many of the family members of the 33 miners trapped under the hard volcanic rock here for more than two months seemed content to remain at Camp Hope on Thursday, tending to their tents and sweeping away the desert dust from their makeshift dining tables.

(The New York Times)

SAN JOSÉ MINE, Chile — The lucky ones now have more than $10,000 in the bank and a free vacation in Greece awaiting them. But for the moment, many of the family members of the 33 miners trapped under the hard volcanic rock here for more than two months seemed content to remain at Camp Hope on Thursday, tending to their tents and sweeping away the desert dust from their makeshift dining tables.

Elizabeth Segovia, the sister of one of the miners, Darío Segovia, arranged balloons next to the family’s five tents, which were decked out with flags and signs welcoming him to the camp. The families have invited him and the other 32 miners to a Mass at the mine on Sunday.

“We want to show him how we lived here, how we waited and prayed every minute of every day, supporting him and shouting for him every day,” said Elizabeth Segovia, 51. “That’s why we are preparing something special for when they come.”

Most of the miners were still in a hospital about an hour away on Thursday. But when they feel stronger, they may return to lives filled with gifts, rich offers to tell their stories and opportunities to see the world.

President Sebastián Piñera on Thursday with some of the 33 rescued miners at a hospital in Copiapó, Chile. The miners are being showered with gifts.

Leonardo Farkas, a Chilean businessman, has already written checks of five million pesos, or about $10,460, to each of the 33 men. Mr. Farkas, an eccentric mining entrepreneur known across the country for his philanthropy and long blond hair, went ahead with the donations as a way of helping the men ease into their new lives.

“The idea is that they shouldn’t be stressed while looking for new jobs,” said Rodrigo Mundaca, a spokesman for Mr. Farkas.

Workers at the state mining company Codelco said they would chip in about $600. While a relatively high-paying profession here, a successful miner in Chile usually cannot expect much more than about $2,000 a month in salary.

Beyond the money, a range of other promised gifts have flooded in. A Greek mining company, Elmin Hellenic Mining Enterprises, has offered a free one-week vacation to Greece for each miner and a companion, so that they could “enjoy our sun and sea” after their long ordeal.

Juan Carlos Aguilar, the 29th miner to be delivered to the surface, rejoiced with rescue workers.

“It was our employees’ idea, as they work under similar conditions to the Chileans and immediately felt solidarity with them,” said the company’s managing director, Lyberis Polychronopoulos.

Finding takers here did not seem difficult.

“We all want to go with him, but he gets to decide,” said Juana Segovia, the 17-year-old daughter of one of the miners, Víctor Segovia.

Family members said they had also been invited by two European soccer teams, Manchester United and Real Madrid, to visit their stadiums in Britain and Spain. Real Madrid had already sent 33 jerseys — signed by players and with the words “Have strength, miners” printed on them — to the miners while they were trapped below. One of the miners, Franklin Lobos, once played professionally.

The Manchester United legend Bobby Charlton, the son of a miner, has sent a recorded message to the Chileans inviting them to Old Trafford, according to news reports, while the former Argentina coach Diego Maradona sent a message saying that the miners’ liberation after 69 days underground “was proof that miracles exist and you are one of them.”

Victor Segovia, center, was the fifteenth man to emerge from the mine.

Edison Peña, an Elvis fanatic among the miners, may get to see the King.

Graceland and the Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau extended invitations for him and a loved one to visit Elvis’s home in Memphis. Mr. Peña, 34, had officials send down Elvis music through the narrow borehole so he could lead the other miners in sing-alongs.

Mr. Peña, who earned the nickname the Runner for jogging three to six miles a day through the mine tunnels during his captivity, could also swing up to New York for the New York City Marathon on Nov. 7.

The New York Road Runners, the group that directs the marathon, said Thursday that they hoped to bring Mr. Peña to town to watch the race — or to participate, if he is up for it.

The second miner to reach the surface, Mario Sepúlveda, left the rescue capsule in a kind of victory dance, hugging family members and officials. He embraced the Chilean president, Sebastián Piñera, three times and presented people with gifts: rocks from the mine. He punched fists with the crowd and led a cheer: “Chi, Chi, Chi, le, le, le,” they shouted. “Miners of Chile!” The refrain echoed as subsequent miners reached the surface.

“He has taken the phrase ‘runner for life’ to a whole new level,” said Mary Wittenberg, the chief executive of New York Road Runners, in an e-mail.

Then there are other goodies, like the latest-generation iPod Touch models that Apple says it has sent to each miner. And, of course, the miners get to keep the Oakley sunglasses they wore while leaving the mine to protect their light-deprived eyes, according to Alejandro Pino, an official who helped prepare the miners before their rescue.

Others offered more unconventional ways to help the miners recover. Adriana Barrientos, a reality show personality in Chile, offered to do a striptease for each of the 33 miners.

“It’s something to improve their spirits, one dance for each of the 33, in private,” Ms. Barrientos told La Cuarta, a Chilean newspaper. “The government should take care of them for life, so they never have to work again and can live a dignified life.”

President Sebastián Piñera of Chile embraced Florencio Ávalos after he was rescued. Mr. Ávalos was the first to be lifted out.

Government officials at both the federal and local level said they would push to make the San Esteban Mining Company, which owns the mine, pay the country back for rescuing the miners. President Sebastián Piñera  said Thursday that the effort had cost $10 million to $20 million, paid for through a mix of donations by private companies and the government.

Now that the rescue is done, Mr. Piñera said he was considering turning Camp Hope, the makeshift village that sprouted up as a temporary home for family members, into a memorial, adding that he would talk to the miners themselves about what the “best lesson” was to draw from the experience.

He said he would also consider what to do with the Phoenix capsule that shuttled the miners to the surface, one by one, and the original note sent up from the miners on Aug. 22 confirming they were alive. Mr. Piñera, the billionaire former head of a media empire, has pulled out the note from his desk or a suit pocket in the past to dramatic effect.

Before they leave, family members of the miners, who have been at the center of a worldwide media swirl for weeks, want the men to experience a little of what their loved ones lived for the 69 days after Aug. 5, when the gold and copper mine collapsed, trapping the miners nearly half a mile below.

Mr. Piñera, center, watched a test of an empty capsule earlier in the evening.  The operation is expected to take one to two days, with Luis Urzúa, 54, the shift leader who organized the miners' lives in the mine, the last to come up.

The camp popped up seemingly out of nowhere, amid the bone-dry hills here in the Atacama Desert. Within weeks it was almost a bustling village, where family members cooked in open fires and slept in tents, all the while praying to statues of St. Lorenzo, the patron saint of miners, for the men to be lifted to safety.

“We are a little sad to be leaving here,” said María Segovia, another of Darío Segovia’s sisters, saying they would pack up Camp Hope for good on Sunday.

“We suffered so much here, went through so much pain, so many anxious days. But we made a lot of friends here, with other family members, with journalists. In so many ways this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”