Experts available to discuss Chilean miners and PTSD and the effect of the Chilean mining disaster on safety in the global mining industry

Release Date: October 18, 2010

University at Buffalo faculty experts are available to comment on the following topics: How group support among the miners may prevent PTSD and a Chilean geologist describes the situation in the Chilean mining industry and how this event may change mining practices

The thoughts of the UB faculty members are summarized below. For more information or to search the university's Newstips blog, go to the Newstips Web Site.

Chilean miners' group support diminishes potential PTSD

John Violanti, PhD., expert in PTSD, a military veteran and former member of the New York State Police, studies the effect of stress in persons working in dangerous professions, such as police, firefighters, and those in the military.

Violanti says the risk of PTSD in the Chilean miners is probably a lot lower than being in combat because of the high degree of social support, not only among the group down in the mine, but also from their family and friends above.

Most research shows that support is the biggest factor that can ameliorate PTSD.

Violanti can be reached by phone at (716) 829-5367 or by email at John Violanti.

Chilean geologist says global mining industry will never be the same

Note to news media: Click here to view a videotaped interview with Cortés.

Joaquin Cortés, PhD, a visiting assistant professor of geology at the University at Buffalo, a Chilean native and former staff member of the Chilean Geological Survey (Sernageomin) says that the San Jose mine disaster will alter, dramatically and forever, small mining operations throughout the world.

"The global mining industry will never be the same after this," says Cortés, who worked in Chile's Los Sauces copper mine early in his career as a mapping geologist and then worked as a staff geologist in the Chilean Geological Survey (Servicio Nacional de Geologia y Mineria; Sernageomin), which oversees mine inspections.

"Knowing the operating conditions of small copper and gold enterprises in Chile and, in particular, those that have been active for more than a hundred years, the miners were incredibly lucky throughout this whole ordeal," he says.

"Nevertheless, the disaster has put a major focus on safety in these small mining companies, not just in Chile, but throughout the world. Situations like this more often end in tragedy, such as the recent examples in China and West Virginia."

Cortés says that there are more than 800 mines in the Copiapó region alone and several thousand throughout the country, some of which are so large that they are like underground cities, complete with roads, traffic lights, hospitals and restaurants.

With its current level of resources, he says Chile is not able to perform sufficient inspections on its mines.

"This whole event is going to result in fundamental changes for operations in Chile's small mining enterprises, and possibly for those in other parts of the world as well," he says.

Right after the San Jose mine collapsed, Cortés says, the Chilean president fired several top officials at the Chilean Geological Survey.

"I think he will be making more dramatic changes in the legislation regarding safety in small enterprises, which will probably improve the rights and working conditions of the miners," Cortés says. "It is likely that such changes will be an example followed by other countries in the world.

"Chile is a resilient country with an important mining culture," Cortés concludes. "We have appropriate technologies and expertise. That is why this story, and a rescue operation unlike any that has been performed in the industry before, finished with a happy ending."

Cortés can be reached by phone at (716) 645-4605 or by email at Joaquin Cortes.

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