Authorities at Camp Hope have had to deal with a rush of women coming forward claiming to be first in the Chilean miners’ affections in order to receive government handouts.
At least five wives have been forced to come face to face with mistresses whose existence was kept from them by their husbands, who have been trapped more than 2,300ft below since a cave in on August 5.
One miner has four women fighting over him in an effort to claim compensation offered to the families of those facing between three to four months underground until a rescue shaft can reach them.
Government officials are considering asking the 33 trapped miners to name those they want to claim the benefits entitled to them in a bid to solve problems on the surface.
“There has been a lot of conflict between women,” admitted Marta Flores a Red Cross worker at the makeshift camp where relatives wait for news of their loved ones.
“We had a big bust up in the canteen tent when a wife came across a woman who claimed to be her husband’s lover – we had to step in and pull them apart before things got physical.” At stake are welfare packages issued to the families of the trapped miners as well as future compensation claims that could run into tens of thousands of pounds.
“Unfortunately the conflict stems from money issues,” said Mrs Flores. “Some of the men have children from numerous women and all of them have arrived here to stake their claim. I’ve met five families in this situation but I’m sure there are more.” Some women turned up at the camp to discover that their partners already had a wife and children who they knew nothing about.
“Those that truly love their men have slipped away quietly not wanting to cause any more pain to the families but others are putting up a fight.” Special welfare officers trained in marital issues have been brought in to provide help to women faced with their husband’s infidelity.
One miner, who has not been named, has a first wife he never divorced, his live-in partner, a mother of a child he had several years ago, and a woman who claims to be his current girlfriend all visiting the camp.
“It’s a logistical nightmare trying to keep them apart and of course they all want to send messages,” said Mrs Flores.
The team of psychologists charged with ensuring the mental welfare of the men below ground are attempting keep such developments from the miners.
“We read all the letters before they are sent down to make sure the miners do not experience any extra anxiety,” said Alberto Iturra, head of the psychological team.
One of the trapped miners, Yonni Barrios Rojas, who is using his first aid training to treat medical problems underground is among those who faces difficult questions when he finally makes it the surface.
His wife, Marta Salinas, 56, discovered he had a mistress when she came across another woman holding a vigil for him. The other woman, Susana Valenzuela, said they met on a training course five years ago and he was planning to leave his wife for her.
“He is my husband. He loves me and I am his devoted wife,” insisted Mrs Salinas. “This other woman has no legitimacy.”