According to the international federation of miners unions Chile has 900 private mines but only 18 mining inspectors.
And the San Jose pit where 33 men have been trapped for two months only had one exit - which is in breach of the International Labour Organisation convention on mining safety.
The International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Unions (ICEM)estimates that at least 12,000 miners are killed on the job every year.
Joe Drexler, the mining secretary of ICEM, said: "A chief cause of continued mining tragedies in most countries is government and employer opposition to unionisation.
"So long as miners do not have rights protected by a union and a legal collective bargaining agreement, they will be forced to work under conditions that jeopardise their lives.
"In Chile existing labour laws are weak. Employers have no obligation to negotiate even after a trade union is formed, and multiple trade unions can exist at any one site, which plays into the hands of employers to keep workers divided."
In a BBC interview this evening the president of Chile, Sebastion Pinera, admitted that safety was bad in small mines - but he claimed large companies had better procedures.
Read the full ICEM statement on mining safety across the world.
Even before the drama in Chile the federation was running a campaign called: "The stronger the union the safer the mine".
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