Chile to ratify international mine safety accord: president

18th October 2010, Comments 0 comments

Chilean President Sebastian Pinera on Monday committed his country to signing up to an international agreement on mine safety after the rescue of 33 miners from deep under the Atacama desert.

On a visit to London, Pinera said Chile was determined to improve security in its extensive mining industry by ratifying a 1995 International Labour Organization (ILO) convention on health and safety.

The agreement protects workers who draw attention to unsafe work practices from losing their jobs.

"Chile has ratified all the International Labour Organization conventions (until now), and this is one that we will ratify," Pinera said in an interview with BBC television.

"What we are doing is we are asking workers to speak out whenever there is problems of security, and we are also asking our entrepreneurs to be much more conscious.

"But that's not enough -- at the end of the day, the government has a responsibility, not only to set standards but also to make sure that those standards are enforced in the field, and we are working very hard on that."

Pinera said that he never lost faith that the miners were alive during the 17 days before they were located underground.

"I had a kind of inner voice that told me all the time they are alive," he said.

He said "not only human effort" was responsible for the miners' survival.

"I won't say it was a miracle, but I will say that we got some very important help," he said.

Asked about accusations he had sought to make political capital out of the miners' rescue, Pinera said: "I visited the mine four times before we even knew they were alive or dead so that criticism is not fair."

Pinera was meeting Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister David Cameron later Monday and was to present them with rock from the San Jose mine.

Cameron was to give Pinera 33 bottles of traditional English real ale -- one for each of the rescued miners -- plus an early edition of the book "Robinson Crusoe", which was inspired by the tale of a sailor marooned on an island off Chile.

© 2010 AFP

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