GENEVA (ILO News) – The Director-General of the International Labour Organization, Juan Somavia, has expressed his deep emotion over the rescue operation to free the 33 miners trapped underground for more than two months in a mine in northern Chile.
“Both as Director-General of the ILO and as a Chilean, I share the joy of millions of people all over the world at the return of these heroes from the depths of the earth”, said Mr Somavia in a statement issued as the operation to rescue the trapped workers was still underway.
“Behind this impressive achievement we have to admire above all the calm, courage, organization and love of life displayed by the miners. Their fortitude in the face of disaster, which has amazed us all, was a constant encouragement for the rescue efforts. They have my most profound respect”, he said.
Mr Somavia highlighted “the tenacity, the skill and the efficiency of all those from the public and private sector, Chileans and non-Chileans alike, who contributed their know-how to this great collective success”.
“Above all, let us pay tribute to the solidarity shown by the miners’ families and the entire nation and to their confidence that what seemed impossible was indeed possible”, he added.
In his statement, Mr Somavia said the miners’ odyssey had taught the world many lessons: “We cannot allow ourselves to forget how this terrible drama began, a group of miners found themselves trapped underground simply because the safety measures in place were inadequate. Safety at work is a core concern of the ILO.”
Mr Somavia said that “in Chile the issue of safety at work is part of the joint agenda pursued by the Government, employers and workers. The ILO, guided by the principles of decent work, will continue to collaborate with them in realizing the goals they set”.
But he added a lot remained to be done to improve working conditions in the mining industry and other hazardous activities around the world.
“By the ILO’s reckoning the mining sector employs around 1 per cent of the global labour force, and yet at the same time it generates 8 per cent of fatal accidents… Every day some 6,300 people die from occupational injuries or diseases, an annual total of more than 2.3 million deaths; and to this a further 337 million accidents at work per year must be added”, he said.