By Nathan Crooks and Randy Woods
Oct. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Chilean rescue workers broke through into a chamber half a mile underground today where 33 miners have been trapped for more than two months.
A crowd made up of hundreds of foreign and local journalists, family members and government officials erupted into cheers and chanted “Long Live Chile” as alarm bells signalled that the drill had broken through at 8:05 a.m. local time.
“It’s unbelievable; it’s an emotion you can’t explain,” said Jeff Hart, an operations manager at Layne Christensen, a drilling company assisting in the efforts. “It was extremely hard, harder than we expected.”
Authorities will spend about six hours today preparing for the rescue site before running a camera down the shaft to determine if the well is stable enough to pull the men out without first lining the walls with a metal casing, Mining Minister Laurence Golborne told reporters today at the mine in northern Chile. The minister said yesterday that withdrawal of the miners may begin as soon as Oct. 12.
The miners have been trapped since Aug. 5 after an access tunnel caved in at Cia. Minera San Esteban Primera SA’s San Jose copper and gold mine in the Atacama region. Chilean state-run Codelco, BHP Billiton Ltd. and other mining companies assisted in what has become the world’s longest-ever mine rescue.
Family Members React
Family members and union officials have urged rescue workers to install the casing to ensure the miners’ safety. Trucks with the casing arrived at the mine this morning.
“We’ve waited for two months, we can wait another two days,” Norma Laques, whose son Jimmy Suarez, 19, is the youngest of the trapped miners.
The miners’ only contact with the outside world has been through tiny drill holes into which people on the surface send down food, water, medicine and games such as dominoes.
As engineers prepared the rescue shaft, workers on the surface were rehearsing plans to extract the miners and transport them to a nearby hospital. Medical facilities will be ready by Oct. 11.
The miners are split into three groups. The strongest will come out first in case they are needed to go back down to assist others, the minister said yesterday. The weakest will then come out, with the rest to follow.
Workers will need two or three days to prepare cranes and other equipment for the extraction and as long as eight days if they opt for the casing, Golborne said.
When the rescue starts, a tube 24 inches wide will be lowered into the hole, which measures 26 inches at its narrowest point, Enes Zepeda, an engineer and director of the Codelco’s supervisors’ union, said at an event on Oct. 7. Once they start pulling out the men, it will take about 90 minutes per person to complete the rescue, he said.
Let's pray for these miners and miner's families that they get out safely.....