Miners plan how to make most of their survival story

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The Independent US

First they want to hug their loved ones. Then they’ll party. Finally, once the dust has settled and their hangovers have cleared, the 33 men who will have survived being trapped inside a Chilean mine for almost 70 days, intend to leverage their international fame to make sure they never have to put on a hard hat and venture back underground again.

With the first of the miners now officially scheduled to return to the surface at midnight on Tuesday (4am Wednesday GMT), the increasingly-excited miners are devoting their final hours inside the San José mine to finalising details of how they intend to go about the lucrative business of telling their extraordinary survival story.

“Los 33,” as the miners are known, have asked a lawyer on the surface to prepare a contract under which they will agree to share equally in any proceeds from TV, film, and publishing deals linked to their ordeal. The agreement is thought to stipulate that they will jointly participate in the all-important first interview.

“We have already received many offers to be filmed and interviewed by national television,” one of the best-known of the men, Yonni Barrios, 50, wrote in a letter sent to the surface. “But we didn't accept because we are going to form a foundation and all our daily experiences during our time down here will go into a book and other projects.”

The first TV interview is widely expected to happen at the regional hospital in Copiapo where all of the men will be airlifted shortly after they emerge from the mine. An open ward on the third floor, where beds have been prepared for 17 of the men is considered to be the most likely backdrop.

For that to happen, the remaining 16 miners, who will be taken to eight two-man private rooms on the second floor, will have to be in a sufficiently robust physical condition to join their comrades upstairs, Abel Olmos, a spokesman for the hospital, told The Independent, adding that arrangements for the interview still have to be fleshed out.

“We are doing everything we can to continue working normally,” he said. “Los 33 will stay here for at least 48 hours, depending on their condition, and we have a unit on standby in case any of them are in a critical condition. The press conference still has to be confirmed.”

Police were yesterday erecting riot barriers outside the entrance of the hospital and installing security checkpoints in an effort to prevent journalists – some of whom are rumoured to be investing in fake doctors’ outfits – from gaining access to the ward where the miners are held.

The men have for the past week been given an hour per day of dealing with the media, and have been practicing how to reply to “ugly, bad and indiscreet” questions about their experiences underground, their personal lives on the surface, and their families.

By setting up a foundation, from which they will all benefit, to deal with their future incomes, the men – who were previously earning roughly 320,000 Chilean Pesos [£1,000] a month hope to ensure their families achieve financial security.

The miners have already been helped by Leonardo Farkas, a philanthropic Chilean mining executive, who gave five million peso [£6,500] checks in each of their names to the 33 families, and set up a fund to collect public donations to them. Meanwhile one miner's child was invited onto a an TV game show where she earned thousands of dollars for her family.

If the mens’ media careers don’t pan out, then they’ve always got the courts: 27 of the 33 workers have filed a negligence lawsuit against the mine’s owners, the San Esteban mining company, seeking billions of Pesos in compensation. A similar suit against government regulators is also planned.