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The 2010 Copiapó mining accident, also known then as the "Chilean mining accident", began in the afternoon of Thursday, 5 August 2010 as a significant cave-in at the troubled 121-year-old San José copper–gold mine. The mine is located in the Atacama Desert about 45 kilometers (28 mi) north of the regional capital of Copiapó, in northern Chile. The buried men, who became known as "Los 33" ("The 33"), were trapped 700 meters (2,300 ft) underground and about 5 kilometers (3 mi) from the mine's entrance via spiraling underground service ramps. The mixed crew of experienced miners and technical support personnel, with less experience working underground, survived for a record 69 days deep underground before their rescue. Previous geological instability at the old mine and a long record of safety violations for the mine's owners had resulted in a series of fines and accidents, including eight deaths, during the dozen years leading up to this accident. As a result of the mine's notorious history, it was originally thought that the workers had probably not survived the collapse or would starve to death before they were found, if ever.
The country of Chile had just endured the 2010 Chile earthquake and its associated tsunami less than six months before the accident. The Chilean people's strong empathy for the workers and their grief-stricken families and the nation's tremendous outpouring of public concern led the national government to take over the faltering search and rescue operation from the mine's financially strapped owners, privately held San Esteban Mining Company.