Rescuing 33 miners trapped in Chile 'to take months'

Evastar

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Pictures appearing to show a miner underground have emerged

It will take at least four months to rescue 33 miners trapped underground in Chile, the head of the rescue operation has said.

Rescuers made contact with the miners by lowering a probe into the mine, 17 days after the men became trapped.

The miners, stuck in a mine shaft shelter some 700m (2,300ft) down, sent up a note saying they were all alive.

Rescuers are now preparing to drill a wider hole through which they can bring the miners to the surface.

The chief engineer in charge of the rescue operation, Andres Sougarret, said a larger and more powerful drill would be needed to dig the hole at the San Jose gold and copper mine near the city of Copiapo.

"A shaft 66cm (26 inches) in diameter will take at least 120 days," he said.

Rescuers plan to send narrow plastic tubes down the narrow borehole already drilled with food, hydration gels and equipment that will allow them to communicate with relatives - including cameras and microphones.


The men have been trapped since 5 August when the main access tunnel collapsed. They are said to be trapped 4.5 miles (7 km) inside the mine, in a space the size of a small flat.


Before drilling the borehole, rescuers reportedly had to give up efforts to get past the cave-in and to try to reach the miners through a ventilation shaft because of the instability of the mine.

Until Sunday, there had been no word from the miners and hopes for their survival were fading.

The announcement that they were still alive was made on Sunday by Chilean President Sebastian Pinera.

Surrounded by relatives of the miners who have gathered outside the mine, he held up a note from the miners saying: "All 33 of us are fine in the shelter."

"It will take months to get them out," Mr Pinera said. "They'll come out thin and dirty, but whole and strong."

Mr Pinera also saw images of the miners taken by a camera that was lowered down the borehole.

The men were bare-chested, apparently due to the heat, but officials said they were in better condition than expected.

"Many of them approached the camera and put their faces right up against it, like children, and we could see happiness and hope in their eyes," Mr Pinera said.

The eldest of the miners, 63-year-old Mario Gomez, sent up a letter to his wife in which he said he was sure the miners would survive.
President Pinera waving miners' note An emotional President Pinera announced that the miners were still alive on Sunday

"Dear Liliana, I'm well, thank God. I hope to get out soon. Have patience and faith," the letter said.

"I haven't stopped thinking about all of you for a single moment."

He also said miners had been able to hear drilling above them as rescuers made several failed attempts to locate them.

The accident has raised concerns about mining safety in Chile, and the company that owns the mine and the national mining service have both been criticised for failing to comply with regulations.

"This company has got to modernise," Mr Gomez said in his letter.

News that the miners were still alive was met with relief across Chile, and people gathered at the main square in the capital, Santiago, to celebrate.

Outside the mine, Mario Gomez's daughter said she could not wait to talk to him.

"No-one will be able to take this happiness away from me," she said.

"I've never felt anything like this in my life. It's like being born again."

The fact that the miners will have a communication channel to relatives is expected to help them cope with the ordeal.

Todd Russell, an Australian miner who was trapped 3,000ft underground in Tasmania after an earthquake in 2006, said he and a second miner who survived the collapse relied on each other for support.

"It's amazing what your body can do," he told the BBC World Service. "We survived on hope and courage, and each other, [and] we were lucky enough to have a bit of underground mine water."

"They're lucky that they've got 33 guys there with them that they can rely on each other," Mr Russell said.

BBC News - Rescuing 33 miners trapped in Chile 'to take months'
 

stevie1ball

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It is amazing how they have stayed alive and hopefully with the technology and gadgets available this day and age they will all be rescued and brought out alive.
 

oneman

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They havn't been told it could be 4 months to get them out. Other workers think the rest of the mine is OK so that gives them around 1 mile of tunnel to move around in.

Amazing thing they survived 17 days living on 2 spoons of tuna, sip of milk and 1/2 a biscuit a day in addition to water.
 

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Chile mine rescuers work on 'Plan B'

Engineers in Chile are working on a plan that they hope will dramatically speed up the rescue of 33 miners trapped in a collapsed shaft.

Workers are due on Monday to start drilling an escape shaft going about 700m (2,300ft) underground, which is likely to take four months to complete.

But engineers say widening an existing tunnel may reach the men in two months.

Officials are looking at several plans to rescue the men, who have been stuck below ground since 5 August.


Engineer Walter Herrera told reporters: "We can broaden the hole that is already there with the latest generation machines and using a wider diameter bore."

Mr Herrera said government experts were studying his proposal.

Health Minister Jaime Manalich announced on Saturday that "Plan B has already been designed", promising more details later.

However, Mining Minister Laurence Golborne had earlier dismissed speculation that the miners could be rescued in as little as 30 or 60 days.

"The information is extremely clear, the time frame is... between three and four months," Mr Golborne told local media, according to AFP news agency.

As part of the original plan, Chile has imported a special hydraulic bore to drill the escape shaft down to the miners.

The Strata 950 will drill a shaft down to the men, and a capsule can be lowered to rescue the men one by one.


On Friday, Mr Manalich said five of the trapped miners were showing signs of depression, and that psychologists would try to help them through an intercom system.

The BBC's Gideon Long describes the footage of the miners as they sent greetings from underground

The miners at the San Jose gold and copper mine near the city of Copiapo, some 725km (450 miles) north of Santiago, were discovered last Sunday after the mine collapsed several weeks earlier.

Rescuers have managed to drill a small tunnel to the men from the surface to allow supplies to be sent down.

On Thursday the men made a video for their families showing their living conditions in the shaft, which was broadcast on Chilean TV.

The men appeared to be in good spirits, despite their ordeal.

Many family members have camped out at the surface of the mine.

Some relatives have launched legal cases against government officials and the owners of the mine, which was reopened in 2008 after being closed because of an accident.

BBC News - Chile mine rescuers work on 'Plan B'
 

earwig999

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I bet they won't even get paid normal rate for the time they are down there.
 

speedy1234

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seen this in the daily star yesterday ..it said they cant afford to pay them while there trapped ??? yer i no its the daily star lol .but it would be bad if thats true that they cant pay them while there stuck down there
 

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Being payed for their time that they are trapped will not have even crossed their minds. As an ex-miner I can barely imagine their anguish let alone those of you who have never ventured underground.
I only worked at a depth of 1800ft compared to their 2300 but they are in a confined area where low oxygen means they are in constant heat.

Without a cap lamp you can't see your fingers when they are in front of your eyes, total blindness. The mine is forever creaking where nature is trying to rejoin the ceiling and floor of the tunnel.Toilet and washing facilities are non-existent underground.

If these guys make it out then they should all be hailed as heroes. No amount of money could compensate them for what they are going through.

Chookey
 

earwig999

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It turns out the Catholic church are not the only ones who enjoy screwing miners (minors). The Chilean government will not be paying them at all during their time down the mine.
 

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Giant new drill joins Chile mine rescue

Giant new drill joins Chile mine rescue

Engineers trying to rescue 33 miners trapped underground in Chile for more than six weeks have begun drilling a third escape tunnel.

A huge drill borrowed from an oil company has joined two others digging through the 630m (2,060ft) of rock separating the miners from the surface.

Chilean President Sebastian Pinera told the trapped men he was confident the rescue effort would succeed.

His government has said it hopes to get them out by early November.


President Pinera, making his fifth visit to the San Jose mine, was accompanied by celebrated Chilean novelist Isabel Allende.

In a video conference, he told the miners he hoped that on his next visit he would be meeting them above ground.

"Today for the first time we have three machines working simultaneously. We do not know when they will reach them. But we know one thing: with the help of God, we will reach them," Mr Pinera said.

"It will be sooner than you expect and it will be a moment of joy, hope and happiness for the whole country and I hope also for the whole world."

Isabel Allende said the miners' epic of survival had captured the imagination of the world.

"I travel throughout the world and on every television screen in the world there are the faces of the 33 miners and there is the name of Chile," she said.
New machine

On Friday one rescue drill completed a 30cm (12in) shaft. But it will take several weeks to make it wide enough to get the men out.

The new drill is much more powerful, capable of cutting through up to 30m of rock a day.

If all goes well, it could be the first to complete a rescue tunnel.

The miners were trapped when the main access tunnel to the San Jose copper and gold mine near Copiapo collapsed on 5 August.

Relatives set up Camp Hope at the pithead when the men were found to be alive, 12 days after the collapse.

The 32 Chileans and one Bolivian have survived longer than any other group trapped underground.

Three bore holes have already reached the men to supply them with food, water and medicine.

BBC News - Giant new drill joins Chile mine rescue
 

Evastar

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Chile's trapped miners spend 50th day underground

The 33 miners trapped in Chile have now been underground for 50 days, longer than any group of miners in recorded history.

In that time, one of them has acquired a new daughter, several have celebrated their birthdays and all of them have become national heroes.

The men, from humble backgrounds, have had several conversations with their country's president.

They have been briefed by a team of experts from Nasa, chatted to a group of Uruguayan rugby players who survived the famous plane crash in the Andes in 1972, and received messages of support from around the world.


And they have had time to think.

"Thank God that I've finally been able to take stock of things here, at the age of 39," one of the miners, Mario Sepulveda, wrote in one of his letters to his wife. "I think I'll benefit a lot from this rebirth."

The tale of the trapped miners has unleashed an outpouring of national pride in Chile. The men have been praised for their strength, their discipline and their stoicism - all much-prized virtues in this, one of the more sober and austere of South American countries.

The fact that the story has coincided with Chile's bicentenary - celebrated on 18 September - has only fuelled that sense of patriotism.

Red, white and blue Chilean flags flutter from buildings across the country. An often deeply divided nation has united behind the trapped men.

"I feel very proud of my people," Isabel Allende, a senator for the region where the San Jose mine is located, told the BBC.

"As a country we've handled something very difficult and complex and we've done it in the best way possible."


Chile's President Sebastian Pinera has undoubtedly benefited from what is essentially a "good news" story.
Chilean President Sebastian Pinera speaks to the trapped miners (19 Sept 2010) President Sebastian Pinera has spoken with the miners several times

His mining minister, Laurence Golborne, has handled the rescue operation sensitively and is now by far the most popular politician in the country. One poll this month gave him a 78% approval rating, and Mr Pinera has ridden on his coat tails.

But this saga is far from over. The miners face several more weeks of confinement before they can be rescued.

The government says it hopes to bring them out in early November, and although some engineers have suggested it might happen before that, there are clearly many challenges ahead.

Three drills are now being used to reach the men. Drill A is working steadily - but slowly. Drill B is faster but has run into problems.

On Wednesday part of it came loose and tumbled down into the miners' shelter. No one was hurt but it was a reminder that things could still go wrong. Drill C, the most powerful of the three, only started work this week and has a long way to go.

Even once the drilling is over, there will still be work to do.

The escape shaft will have to be reinforced with hundreds of metres of plastic tubing to ensure it does not collapse. A winch will have to be set up to haul the escape capsule up and down the shaft.

The engineers said this week that it would take between 60 and 90 minutes to bring each miner to the surface, meaning the whole process will take the best part of two entire days.

Fifty days of confinement may have come and gone but, for the miners, many more lie ahead.

BBC News - Chile's trapped miners spend 50th day underground
 

witchy

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Re: Chile's trapped miners spend 50th day underground

You know that feeling you get when you exit the cinema during day light?

Well just imagine how bad that's going to feel for those guys, lol.
 
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oneman

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Re: Chile's trapped miners spend 50th day underground

Is there still not an issue that 3 of the miners are too big to fit in the planned rescue shaft ?
 

witchy

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Re: Chile's trapped miners spend 50th day underground

Is there still not an issue that 3 of the miners are too big to fit in the planned rescue shaft ?

I'm sure by Xmas they'll all be weighing 7st. :)
 

oneman

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Re: Chile's trapped miners spend 50th day underground

I'm sure by Xmas they'll all be weighing 7st. :)

Yeah, unfortunately its there hip width so unless they break their bones, might be a problem. I hear the oil rig they now have should be big enough.
 

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Chile miners: Family joy as rescue capsule arrives

A cage specially built to help rescue 33 men trapped underground in a mine in Chile has arrived at the mine head.

The steel capsule will be used to pull the men to safety one by one, once a rescue shaft wide enough to haul them up has been drilled.

Relatives of the miners were allowed to get into the narrow cage, which is little more than 50cm (20in) wide.

It is expected to take between 20-30 minutes to pull each miner up from their shelter at a depth of 700m.


The long - and extremely narrow - steel case has been named Phoenix, and its designers hope it will lift the men to a new life overground much like the bird in Greek mythology rose from the ashes.

Relatives of the miners, who have been camped out at the mine head since the men were trapped after a rockfall more than seven weeks ago, clapped when the rescue capsule was unveiled.


Carolina Lobos, 25, whose father Franklin is one of the men trapped, was one of a handful of relatives allowed to step into the cage.

She told the BBC it looked very narrow, but was actually surprisingly comfortable inside.

Ms Lobos said she had enough space to move and did not feel claustrophobic.

She did point out, though, that she had only been in the capsule for a couple of minutes and in the open air, whereas her father would have to stay in the cage for up to half an hour while it is pulled through the 700m of rock separating him and the other 32 miners from the surface.
The rescue capsule The capsule has been specially built for the rescue

"I was very nervous, my heart was racing," she said.

"It was a very emotional moment for me to be in the capsule that will lift my dad to safety and bring him back to us," she added.

The capsule is fitted with communication equipment allowing the miners to stay in touch with the surface, and with enough oxygen to last for 90 minutes.

There are handles which release a door at the bottom of the capsule, so in case it should get stuck, the miner can winch himself back down to the shelter.

The rescue pod arrived at the mine well ahead of schedule, but Mining Minister Laurence Golborne refused to be drawn on speculation that the rescue might happen earlier than the official estimate. Currently the miners are expected to begin emerging in the first week of November.

Early on Saturday local time the Strata 950, the first of three drills working to bore a hole wide enough to rescue the men, had reached a depth of 442m (1,458ft).

But the Strata is still on its pilot hole, and will have to drill down a second time to widen the shaft enough to fit the rescue pod.

The second drill, which has already completed its pilot hole, has reached 175m (577ft).

The third machine, which is the only one to drill a shaft wide enough in the first go, is at 62m (204ft).

BBC News - Chile miners: Family joy as rescue capsule arrives
 

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Chile mine rescue makes rapid advance

Thirty-three miners trapped underground in Chile for nearly two months could be out sooner than thought.

Rescuers digging to reach the men say one of their drills has cut through 50m (164ft) of rock in 24 hours.

At that rate they could be ready to bring the men to the surface by the middle of October.

But they have warned that they could yet run into problems, and the government still says it could take until early November to get them out.


One of the three drills digging rescue shafts - the T-130 - has now penetrated 300m (984ft) of the 630m (2,066ft) of rock separating the miners from the surface.

"This headway is some of the best we have had and it is due to the better continuity we have had with this drill," Andrew Sougarret, the head of the rescue operation, said.

"We have reached 300m, which is the area where we have had the most unfavourable geological conditions, so hopefully we can think about maintaining this rhythm of drilling."

Relatives of the miners, who have been camped out at the San Jose mine since the men were trapped by a rock fall on 5 August, cheered when the progress was announced.

Senior engineer Rene Aguilar tells the BBC's Tim Wilcox how the trapped miners are helping the rescue attempt

A steel capsule designed to pull the miners up through the narrow rescue shaft when it is completed is standing by on the surface.

A field hospital to give the men medical attention as and when they get out is being set up.

Construction work has even started on a huge platform to accommodate up to 1000 journalists from around the world who are expected to descend on the mine to report on the rescue.

The interior ministry cabinet chief, Cristian Barra, said all the elements for the rescue operation were being put in place.

"We are preparing to be ready in 15 days to complete the rescue at any time. This does not mean this will happen in 15 days, but all the installations - the hospital, the medical team, the meeting point - everything required will be prepared," Mr Barra said.

BBC News - Chile mine rescue makes rapid advance
 

stevie1ball

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Things are still looking positive for the successful rescue of these miners. It must be a bit daunting to think that they are now having to rely on a 20" wide pod to fetch them to the surface. I fear for what happens ( heaven forbid ) it this pod gets stuck on it's way up as it won't really be able to be tested sufficiently prior to it's use on so many people of different shapes and weights.

I prey that all goes well as they deserve there freedom after all they have been through and done together.
 
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