This is the moment Chile and the world, have been waiting for……

Well it is impossible not to be excited and moved by what is happening here today - 1,000 people celebrating the first of the miners to emerge from the depths of the earth, up to 69 days under ground. It's midnight in the central plaza of the nearby mining boom town of Copiapo, where most of the trapped miners live.

GIRL (Translation): I am very proud of my country and hooray for the Chilean miners! More power to you – this is a miracle.

The copper and goldmine is an hour's drive north of town into the driest desert on earth, the Atacama.

RADIO VOICE OVER (Translation): A whole country in tune with the 33 miners in the north. AND Radio Chile is in the San Jose mine following all the details of the rescue.

Arriving three weeks before the rescue I find a bizarre mix of families, media, miners and officials, all camped out at the mine. There's even a clown to entertain the kids. The logistics are enormous, with the government footing the bill to provide for the growing crowd at what has become known as Camp Hope.

But in the beginning there was no festive atmosphere, when no one knew if the men were dead or alive, this was a sombre place.

ROSSANA GOMEZ (Translation): Nothing – there was nothing only desperate uninformed people with no information.

At 63, Rosanna's father Mario Gomez is the oldest of the 33 men. He's worked in mines since he was 12 years old. As soon as they heard about the accident on 5 August, his family moved here to the mine, hoping Mario may be found alive. The first few nights were gruelling, in the desolate winter of the Atacama Desert they caught what sleep they could.

ROSSANA GOMEZ (Translation): I call it ‘sleeping’ but at the beginning we did not sleep.

REPORTER (Translation): Because of the cold?

ROSSANA GOMEZ (Translation): The cold….and the anguish of not knowing, so we spent the whole night around the fire.

Then after 17 days that miraculous news, a note attached to the drill bit which read 'Estamos Bien en el refugio los 33' "We are fine in the shelter, all 33 of us".

MINER VIDEO (Translation): We are trying to survive here in our own way. We are organised to some extent – this is Richard’s food but he has not eaten it yet. They are giving us Gatorade – at least we are well hydrated which is what we wanted.

The first video from below was released five days after contact was made. An emergency supply of food and water had been delivered.

During those 17 desperate days there are stories of splits among the groups and fistfights breaking out. This may explain why not all the miners appear in these first videos, and the worst of it may never be revealed with reports that the miners formed a pact to never speak of their darkest hours.

REPORTER (Translation): The local media were saying the miners were divided into two groups at first - five of the 33 were cut off from the group…

ROSSANA GOMEZ (Translation): I really don’t know.

REPORTER (Translation): You will learn about this later?

ROSSANA GOMEZ (Translation): Yes, they are the only ones who know the truth - they will tell us what really happened.

MINER VIDEO (Translation): I would like to say hello to my mother, to Pepe, my brother, my little sister, to Antonia and my wife who is waiting at home with the baby. And I would like to tell them that I love them. And I’ll be out soon – I’m going - Bye.

As the men realised the extent of the efforts to free them, their spirits lift. This was recorded on Chile's bicentenary. On the surface, too, families relaxed a little and settle into a daily routine. Dario Segovia's family are in a prominent location at the camp. Their day usually begins with a cameraman like me filming everything they do. Their lives have become a reality TV show.

Alberto gets up early and writes to his trapped brother every day. The letters and anything else small enough are delivered in a tiny capsule.

REPORTER (Translation): What are you telling him today, what news?

ALBERTO (Translation): That we are well, to stay calm, to keep up the flow of letters because the psychologist said it is important to them. We should not stop writing – just keep writing so they at least have something to read – to pass the time. It’s not long now but it helps to pass the time.

The chief psychologist's team communicate with the men below ground but also help the families above.

PSYCHOLOGIST (Translation): We have been very respectful, we don’t ask questions, we just keep them company. Certain things have come up which we share and it has been a natural process. I think the miners will have good families to return to.

Minister for Mining Laurence Golborne is actively involved in the rescue effort. With his popularity soaring as the operation continues successfully he's even being touted as a future President. So far he's avoided most criticism of why the mine was even operating when everyone knew it was so dangerous. For now all eyes are on the risks ahead.

LAURENCE GOLBORNE, MINISTER FOR MINING: But we haven't succeeded yet in the final rescue, so we have to be very conservative in that regard and not anticipate celebrations until the job is done. It doesn't mean with have to be pessimistic on this, but we have to be conservative and wait.

As well as their daily briefings with politicians and psychologists, the families also get briefed by local government officials on their legal rights.

BRUNILDA GONZALEZ, CALDERA MAYOR (Translation): The lawsuit is in the millions – we are asking for a minimum of $1 million for each worker who is trapped in the mine… at least. Maybe some will criticise, saying you are profiting financially, many will say that but the reality is… that is not true. We are asking for justice – no more, no less. Criminal justice and civil justice A=and you should not be ashamed.

REPORTER (Translation): What will your family do with a million dollars?

WOMAN (Translation): What wouldn’t they do with a million dollars!

The next day the families leave Camp Hope for the city courts of Copiapo to start the legal ball rolling. Their lawyer, Edgardo Reynoso, says it will take years for the men to recover from their experience.

EDGARDO REYNOSO, LAWYER (Translation): I am sure that when those 33 miners get out… they will have some problems of some sort – they could suffer from post-traumatic disorders.

The case against the openers appears straightforward. Their mine has the worse safety record in the region, but with patriotic fervour rising, the case against the State for negligence is more complicated.

EDGARDO REYNOSO (Translation): We all appreciate the enormous and commendable efforts that the rescuers are making, and the leaders of the engineering companies, everyone who is participating but we should also understand that as well as the responsibility of the mining company, there is government responsibility.

Any successful claim on the state will only add to a bill that's already well into the tens of millions of dollars.

LAURENCE GOLBORNE: It's costing a significant amount of money.

REPORTER: Do you have a figure?

LAURENCE GOLBORNE: Yes, we do have a figure, this information will be provided to the President. He'll decide whether it's made public or not.

REPORTER: You are not disappointed the families, after all you are doing for them are thinking of suing the State.

LAURENCE GOLBORNE: I am not commenting in terms of feelings, I comment in terms of facts and we are focussed on the rescue of people. Everyone has the right to claim what he thinks and feels that is proper.

This remarkable story of hope has captivated Chile and inspired this young man to compose a song for the miners. Camp Hope, meanwhile, continues to grow. Rosanna's son has lost count of how many family members are here enjoying the government's hospitality. By now it's very clear the government will stop at nothing to free the men, so more immediate daily concerns take over, like how to make sure the kids don't have to repeat a year of school.

ROSSANA GOMEZ (Translation): The time for playing all day is over – they would get up and play with the clown all day but now they have started classes.

The government sets up a makeshift classroom, the eight students to study here range in age from 3 to 14 years old.

MAN (Translation): When a child is present, this is a symbol of the future – of hopes and dreams.

The Education Minister, the Mayor and others take turns to pose with the youngest for the cameras.

MAYOR (Translation): Kids, here is your teacher and you already know Raul – show them respect. Classes will start now.

But with the amount of media here for this event there won't be a lot of study going on today.

An hour's drive from Camp Hope the other employees of the mine are at their union meeting where they get a chance to vent their own concerns.

MINER (Translation): I think all our workmates are asking why all the benefits are going to the trapped miners. What about us – we are getting nothing?

It's tense, the men are owed wages, and they are also worried about their entitlements if the mine declares bankruptcy.

MINER 2 (Translation): You are not giving me any solutions – I’m able to work.

JAVIER CASTILLO (Translation): I think everyone is concerned about the same thing – we all want answers and solutions. If it was simple, we would not be in this state.

But the interjections continue. When he insults one of the ladies present, it's too much for a miner, who decides to take matters into his own hands.

CROWD (Translation): Don’t hit him, please don’t hit him.

JAVIER CASTILLO (Translation): We are in a very desperate situation, when a situation like this arises – which is very embarrassing – and we have invited a cameraman who is doing a report for Australia – is this the way Chilean workers solve their problems?

They all complain the press has ignored them, and I do find it odd with so many reporters at the mine, I'm the only one at this meeting.

MINER 3 (Translation): We all have families, what are they thinking, they are leaving us in deep shit.

WOMAN (Translation): Excuse me, if you are helping so many people why can’t you help those of us who are in a worse state? These men are not trapped but they also have families, children, bills…

MINER 4 (Translation): Thank goodness the 33 are alive, but the families are not with us. They want all the media attention, all the benefits for themselves.

Today marks 60 days since the accident that buried these 33 men 700m beneath the surface of the earth, as the drills get closer, and one is very close, there's a real sense of excitement building up in this extraordinary camp. At 2pm the exact time of the accident, the families mark the anniversary with a religious service.

MINISTER (Translation): Thank you God for keeping the 33 miners alive.

On the hill they raise the flag and sing the National Anthem. As for the media, yet another wave has arrived to cover the imminent rescue. Bulldozers work day and night clearing more space for the 2,000 accredited press. The families’ tents are now completely surrounded by satellite dishes and media motor homes, one of which accidentally empties its toilet on to one of the family's tents.

I'm not sure exactly what is happening, but it looks like they reached 300m. The pack swarms the families to document every milestone. A policeman tries his best to shield them.

ELIZABETH SEGOVIA (Translation): I have spent two months here so this is like a home to me, but when I go home I will miss this place because I have had beautiful and happy moments, very exciting and moving moments and painful moments.

REPORTER (Translation): Will you miss anything about this experience?

ROSSANA GOMEZ (Translation): The friendships we have formed with many people, yes. We have made friends among the journalists and families but I won’t miss anything else about this place.

REPORTER (Translation): I know you will return to your normal life but isn’t it going to be difficult for him?

ROSSANA GOMEZ (Translation): It will be hard with the media hounding them for their stories, but yes, he has to resume his normal life soon.

REPORTER (Translation): What is normal?

ROSSANA GOMEZ (Translation): Normal? A job, a house, duties, bills to pay, sharing moments with your family… that is a normal life for us.

When the drill finally breaks through into the miners' refuge there are emotional scenes above. The circus is waiting to ask how the families are feeling.

ROSSANA GOMEZ (Translation): Happiness and nervousness….a feeling of relief, it is what we have waited for and prayed for, we are very happy now. They are getting out safely and then the nightmare will be over.


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