Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Joy after Chile Mine Rescue Drill Reaches Trapped Miners

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Joy after Chile Mine Rescue Drill Reaches Trapped Miners

Article excerpt

Chile mine rescue teams are now aiming for Wednesday to begin to hoist 33 miners from the copper and gold mine where they have been trapped for more than two months.

When Chile mine rescue drillers punched their 27-inch bit into a passage Saturday where miners trapped deep underground for more than two months were waiting, pure joy erupted above ground.

Workers on the surface exulted and family members embraced.

"They were very excited, shouting and singing and everything else," says James Stefanic, operations manager at drill operator Geotec Boyles Bros.

IN PICTURES: Chile mine collapse

But there's much more work to be done to get the miners up to the surface safely, and there's little room for mistakes.

"I am really happy because we have accomplished a new step in this rescue process, but we haven't finished yet," said Chilean Mining Minister Laurence Golborne after technicians had inspected the escape shaft, which was completed Saturday morning. "There are a lot of things to do and we have to make no mistakes."

More delicate work before the rescue is complete

Rescuers are now aiming for Wednesday to begin to hoist the 33 miners from the copper and gold mine.

Workers both on the surface and down in the mine are scrambling to complete a more than 2,000-foot-deep shaft wide enough for the miners to be pulled up in small capsules. They are now using a crane to line the top of the shaft with a 24-inch steel pipe to keep rocks from falling down the shaft and potentially jamming one of the cages that will be used to haul up the miners.

The majority of the shaft appears to be stable without reinforcing pipe, so the rescue capsules will be hauled up through bare rock, Mr. Golborne said. The rock didn't crumble as drillers repeatedly pulled the drill bit out and reinserted it, meaning it seems to be "competent" rock, says Richard Soppe of bit manufacturer Center Rock Inc. …

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