Image: Claudio Yanez talks to relatives
AP
Trapped miner Claudio Yanez talks to his relatives during a video conference at the collapsed San Jose mine in Copiapo, Chile, on Saturday, Sept. 4.
By
updated 9/5/2010 12:43:46 PM ET 2010-09-05T16:43:46

While a fire warms their campsite, the icy feeling between Cristina Nunez Macias and her mother-in-law is as palpable as the cold Atacama desert.

Both women are here to support same man, 34-year-old Claudio Yanez, one of the 33 trapped miners in Northern Chile. But they barely acknowledge each other, thanks to wounds created many years ago, and have been fighting over who should get Yanez's salary and donations that have come from all over Chile.

"We have barely spoken in six years," said Macias. "And now she thinks the donations and help should go to her? No way."

The disaster that will likely keep the miners underground for months also has shaken the fault lines in their families above. Some squabble over who should get the miners' August wage, who should share in the donated food.

The local government has been forced to institute several measures: The miners were asked to send up a note designating who could get their $1,600 (800,000 peso) salary for August. There are separate bank accounts for each miner, which no family member can touch.

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Social workers have been brought in to sort out who gets boxes of food, household cleaners and clothes donated by unions, companies and individuals — helping settle disputes among relatives of about half the families of the trapped men, said Pamela Leiva, the head social worker at the camp of relatives waiting near the mine.

"For each miner, sometimes there are as many as three families to consider," she said. "And to understand them, we have had to dig into the lives of the miners before the accident."

Those lives, just like lives the world over, can be complicated.

There are men who have been living with a partner for years while still formally married to a woman from whom they separated long ago, the result of a rigid divorce law. In a few cases, the legal wife of a miner has come forward looking for donations, said Leiva.

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There are brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers on both sides of a miner who don't get along, or who depended on his salary to survive, meaning they can't just wait long months for their loved one to be rescued.

And of course, some miners have skeletons in their unexpectedly opened closets.

Leiva confirmed a story told by other witnesses: One miner's wife and lover were both keeping vigil at the camp. When the two realized they were both praying for the same man, they had a very public argument, and the wife tore down a poster with the miner's photo that the mistress had set up.

The mistress taped her poster back up, and beneath several poems and prayers she had dedicated to him, she added, as if defiantly: "Tu Senora," or "your wife."

Having to designate who gets their salary, a large sum in a country where the minimum wage is roughly $400 (200,000 pesos) a month, can put the men in a difficult situation, and limited communications give them few ways to talk through the problems with squabbling relatives 2,300 feet (700 meters) above their heads.

Miner Claudio Yanez designated Cristina Nunez Macias, 26, his partner of 10 years and mother of their two daughters, an 8-year-old and a toddler.

Yanez's mother, Margarita, declined to be interviewed, but his brother, Carlos Yanez, 38, said the tensions had died down the last week, as the two women have had to make peace.

Carlos also said they had come to an agreement on nonperishable items: leave them in Christina's house until the miner gets out and can decide who gets what.

For all the fissures that have been exposed, the tragedy has also brought families together.

Maria Segovia said that a stepdaughter of her brother, trapped miner Dario Segovia, visited the camp one day and angered Dario's three biological children by telling local media she was his only child. In fact, she was a stepdaughter from Segovia's previous relationship.

But after the blowup came a makeup, and a stronger relationship.

"We love her as one of Dario's children," said Maria.

Despite worldwide attention, the miners' financial future is uncertain when and if they make it out alive.

Story: 'Alive' survivors to Chilean mining kin: Be strong

The owners of the mining company, San Esteban, have said they may not be able to pay wages in September, and are considering bankruptcy.

The day after the men were discovered alive, businessman Leonardo Farkas donated $10,000 (5 million pesos) to each miner. That money has been put in the miners' accounts, and Farkas has encouraged Chileans to donate.

Money donations are distributed evenly among the 33 miners, said Leiva, the social worker.

While every family is focused on seeing its loved one emerge alive, there is another deep, longer-term worry: Will these men be able to return to work?

Many, psychologically and physically, may be unable to go back in the mines, or refuse to do so.

There are few other opportunities in Northern Chile, and many of the men don't have the education to do anything else that pays as well.

"A big worry is: How they will come out?" said Leiva. "They don't have other jobs."

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Gallery: Miner profiles, first moments of freedom

Read about each of the 33 miners as they are rescued.

Photos: Chilean mine collapse

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  1. Carlos Galleguillos and Tabita Galleguillos, relatives of trapped miner Jorge Galleguillos, wait for news outside the San Jose Mine near Copiapo, Chile, on Monday, Oct. 11. The engineer leading Chilean rescue efforts, Andres Sougarett, said Monday his team successfully tested a rescue capsule nearly all the way down to where 33 miners are trapped. (Natacha Pisarenko / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Drill operators Jeff Hart, left, and James Staffel, both U.S. citizens, wave as the drill that made the hole reaching the miners is transported away from the mine on Monday. (Jorge Saenz / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Surrounded by media crews, onlookers and mine staff, the main rescue drill leaves the mine on Monday. (Ariel Marinkovic / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Rescuers test a capsule similiar to the one that will be used to recover the trapped miners at the San Jose mine near Copiapo, Chile, on Sunday, Oct. 10. (Hugo Infante / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. A relative of one of the miners is hugged by a policeman after the drilling machine completed an escape hole at the mine on Oct. 9. (Ivan Alvarado / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Workers of the T-130 drill celebrate in the arid Atacama desert on Oct. 9. The crew drilling with the T-130 drill, part of an effort dubbed "Plan B" - one of three shafts attempting to reach 33 miners trapped deep underground - finally made contact with the miners' shelter. (Francesco Degasperi / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. A clown named Rolly shows a flag that was sent by the 33 trapped miners as a gift at the camp where relatives wait for news outside the San Jose mine in Copiapo, Chile, on Wednesday, Oct. 6. The words on the flag read in Spanish, "A souvenir for clown Rolly, from the San Jose mine, thanks for making our children laugh." Thirty-three miners have been trapped deep underground in the copper and gold mine since it collapsed on Aug. 5. (Natacha Pisarenko / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. A helmet sits on a rock covered with the names of the 33 miners trapped in the collapsed San Jose mine. (Natacha Pisarenko / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Aurelia Navarro, a volunteer missionary, prays on Oct. 5 during a small ceremony marking the 60 days since miners became trapped. (Dario Lopez-mills / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. A relative of one of the trapped miners writes a message on a Chilean national flag on Oct. 4. (Martin Bernetti / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A team tests a possible rescue capsule designed by the Chilean Army's Shipyards on Sept. 30. (Ariel Marinkovic / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Workers on Sept. 30 test a capsule that will be used to rescue trapped miners. (Chile's Presidency via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. A worker checks part of a drill pulled from Rigg 421 on Sept. 24 at the San Jose mine near Copiapo, Chile, where 33 miners remain trapped. (Ivan Alvarado / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Children play Oct. 2 as a worker hangs a sign identifying a module to be used as school room for relatives of the trapped Chilean miners trapped. Many of the families of the miners are living in what is called "Camp Esperanza" or "Camp Hope." (Ariel Marinkovic / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Relatives of the trapped miners watch a video of them at the San Jose mine on Saturday, Sept. 18. (Aliosha Marquez A / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. A crane lifts a capsule that will be used as part of rescue operation for the miners at the San Jose copper and gold mine on Saturday, Sept. 25. (Ivan Alvarado / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Nelly Bugueno, mother of trapped miner Victor Zamora, checks her cell phone as she walks past the tents where families of the 33 trapped miners are living as they await rescue on Friday. (Stringer/chile / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Jesica Cortez, wife of Victor Zamora, one of the 33 miners trapped down in the shaft, rejoices as she reads a letter from her husband, at San Jose mine, near Copiapo, 800 km north of Santiago, on Wednesday, Sept. 18. (Martin Bernetti / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Relatives of trapped miners Claudio Yanez and Dario Segovia write a message to them with painted stones outside the San Jose mine in Copiapo, Chile, Thursday, Sept. 23. (Photographer: Aliosha Marquez A / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Members of a folkloric ballet perform at the camp where relatives of trapped miners wait for news outside the San Jose mine in Copiapo, Chile, Wednesday Sept. 1. Thirty-three miners have been trapped alive deep underground in the copper and gold mine since it collapsed on Aug. 5. (Roberto Candia / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. A composite image captured from a video on Tuesday, Sept. 1 shows four of 33 trapped miners waving at mine San Jose, near of Copiapo, Chile. (Codelco / Handout / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. A sample of what it will be the first hot meal the miners still trapped in the San Jose Mine will have since the accident, Tuesday, Sept. 1 near Copiapo, Chile. (Ariel Marinkovic / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Evangelic Minister Javier Soto dedicates one of the 33 mini-bibles that will be given to the miners trapped in the San Jose mine, Monday. (Ariel Marinkovic / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. View of 33 Chilean national flags placed outside the San Jose mine by the relatives of the 33 trapped miners in Copiapo, 800 km north of Santiago on Monday. (Ariel Marinkovic / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. A worker checks the drill machine digging an escape hole for the 33 miners trapped underground in a copper and gold mine at Copiapo, north of Santiago, Chile, on Monday, Aug. 30. (Ivan Alvarado / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Work to rescue the trapped miners continues on Aug. 30 at the mine, which is located 450 miles north of Santiago. (Ivan Alvarado / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Samuel Avalo, left, and his wife Herminda Acuna, parents of Samuel Avalo Acuna, one of the trapped miners, sit outside the San Jose mine in Copiapo, on Aug. 30. (Roberto Candia / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Relatives of miners carry candles during a vigil outside the mine on Sunday, Aug. 29. (Roberto Candia / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Trapped miners wave at a camera from underground on Aug. 29. (Ivan Alvarado / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Chilean pianist Roberto Bravo performs during a show for the relatives of the trapped miners in Copiapo on Aug. 29. (Ariel Marinkovic / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. Relatives of those trapped underground in a copper and gold mine gather around a screen showing the miners inside the mine at Copiapo, north of Santiago, Chile, on Thursday, Aug. 26. (Ivan Alvarado / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Marion Gallardo, the granddaughter of trapped miner Mario Gomez, writes a letter to her grandfather on Wednesday, Aug. 25. The 33 miners trapped in the San Esteban gold and copper mine in Copiapo, north of Santiago, since Aug. 5 say they are "enduring hell" underground, putting urgency into the rescue operation. (Ariel Marinkovic / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. A combined photo shows the 33 miners trapped in the mine in Copiapo, Chile. (Diario Atacama / Handout / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. Elias Sepulveda and her cousin Katherine embrace in front of a tribute to their relatives, Esteban Rojas and Pablo Rojas, two of the miners trapped in the collapsed mine. (Roberto Candia / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. An officer stands in front of the machine that will be used to rescue the miners. The miners were trapped when the shaft they were working in collapsed. (Claudio Reyes / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. Relatives of the trapped miners wave to rescue workers outside the collapsed mine. Rescue teams bored a small hole down more than 2,000 feet and used a video camera to confirm the miners were alive on Aug. 22. (Roberto Candia / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  37. Florencio Avalos, one of the trapped miners, is seen Aug. 23 in an image from video. The camera was lowered more than 2,000 feet into the copper and gold mine. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  38. Lilianette Ramirez, wife of trapped miner Mario Gomez, holds a letter from her husband outside the mine on Aug. 23. (Ivan Alvarado / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  39. Relatives of trapped miners embrace after learning that the 33 miners were found alive Aug. 22. (Stringer/chile / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  40. Chilean workers operate a drilling machine at the San Esteban gold and copper mine on Aug. 17. (Ariel Marinkovic / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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