Chile rescue highlights safety issues, says ILO chief
The head of the International Labour Organization paid tribute to the 33 miners trapped underground for 69 days in Chile, but said the safety failings behind the drama should not be forgotten.
"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," he said in a statement issued Wednesday.
He saluted their "calm, courage, organization and love of life."
But he added: "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."
There was still a lot to be done to improve working conditions in the mining industry -- and other dangerous sectors -- around the world, he said.
"One way of honouring the bravery of these 33 miners and the worldwide concern for their safe return would be for Chile -- for Chilean society as a whole -- to become a world leader in occupational safety and health, espousing a cause which would bring honour to the nation.
"The fact is that all too often the news from the world's mines brings us tidings of death and disappearance," he added.
According to ILO statistics, the mining sector employed around one percent of the global labour force but generated eight per cent of fatal accidents, he said.
But he stressed: "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."
© 2010 AFP