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Three years on, Chile mine probe closes without charge

Miners who were trapped are far from the fame and financial resources they hoped their misfortunes would bring.

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(JUAN MABROMATA/AFP/Getty Images)

Three years after 33 trapped Chilean miners were rescued in an operation that captivated the world, an investigation into the site's management closed without any charges.

Meanwhile the miners involved in the incident are far from the fame and financial resources they hoped their misfortunes would bring.

The case closed after no evidence of criminal liability was found concerning the owners of the San Jose mine.

The investigation grew out of the August 5, 2010 collapse that buried the miners for 69 days at approximately 700 meters (2,290 feet) underground in Chile's Atacama region.

"We made the decision not to continue, because we don't believe we can bring charges over these events," regional Atacama prosecutor Hector Mella told reporters on Wednesday.

"The decision to not continue (...) is a clear indication that the owners of the San Jose mine had not committed any crime" defense attorney Catherine Lathrop told the newspaper La Tercera.

The announcement comes just four days before the anniversary of the cave-in.

"We called our lawyer who told us to be calm. We have another lawsuit, for negligence," miner Luis Urzua, who took on the role as spokesman for his rescued peers, told AFP Thursday.

A malpractice suit filed a year after the collapse accuses the National Service of Geology and Mining of having not inspected working conditions and mine safety.

It asks for $500,000 for each miner.

The former colleagues marked the third anniversary of the collapse on Monday at mass at the Shrine of the Virgin of La Candelaria in Copiapo, some 800 kilometers north of Santiago.

"All 33 are well and working and living in different parts of the country," Urzua said.

Urzua, who was the last to leave the mine during the 22-hour rescue that went without flaw, said none of the miners had since achieved fame or fortune.

"We are miners. We are strong and do not go around crying about the situation. A lot of people think we have money, because we do not cry," Urzua said.

After the rescue, the men were showered with offers to be on TV, both in Chile and abroad. The spotlight caused some to turn to alcohol.

A year after the ordeal, most of the miners had returned to normal life, opening businesses or resuming jobs related to mining. The Chilean government gave special pensions to the old and invalid among them.

A Hollywood studio is slated to make a movie on the ordeal starring Jennifer Lopez and Antonio Banderas, but of the millions of dollars promised for the rights, the miners have not seen much money.

"The movie is happening, slowly, but happening," said Urzua. "We're going to make millions with a forthcoming book we're writing."

The San Jose gold and copper mine, which had been in operation for more than a century, remains semi-abandoned.

An October 2011 settlement required its owners to pay 25 percent of the cost of the rescue, which totaled $22 million.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130801/three-years-chile-mine-probe-closes-without-charge