Mining miracle in Chile - trapped copper miners found alive after 18 days
"Never have so few words brought such happiness to an entire nation," Chile's President declared as he read a note to the nation from the 33 trapped miners who say they are alive and well.
Posted: Monday , 23 Aug 2010
RENO, NV -
"Never have so few words brought such happiness to an entire nation," said Chilean President Sebastian Pinera as he read aloud a brief message tied to a drill from the trapped Chilean Miners, who declared in big and bold red letters, "All 33 of us are well inside the shelter."
The miners have been trapped for 18 days at around 700 meters or 2,300 feet inside the San Jose gold and copper mine near the city of Copiapo when the main access tunnel collapsed on August 5. The miners are reported to be 4.5 miles or 7km inside the mine.
The bad news is rescuers say it could take four months-or until just around Christmas-to get them out of the mine.
A video camera lowered down the probe shaft some 688 meters deep into the mine showed some of the miners waiving happily. International news media have published photos from the video camera.
Hundreds gathered, cheering and waving flags in Santiago's Plaza Italia celebrating the needs of the miners' survival. The rescue effort has been nationally televised in live feeds from the mine.
"I am OK, thanks to God, I hope to get out soon," wrote miner Mario Gomez. "Patience and faith. God is great and the help of my God is going to make it possible to leave this mine alive."
However, Gomez stressed, "This company has got to modernize. But I want to tell everyone I'm okay and am sure we will survive." Privately owned company Compania Minera San Esteban Primera owns the mine. The San Jose mine has been closed twice for safety violations and 16 workers have been killed in recent years, according to Chilean government officials.
President Pinera has already fired top officials of Chile's regulatory mining agency and vowed to make a major overhaul of the agency in the aftermath of the accident.
The trapped miners said they were living in a makeshift refuge. Using a backhoe, they dug a canal to retrieve underground water and have used electricity from a truck engine to create lightning deep inside the mine.
Rescue equipment from around the world is being imported to build an escape tunnel at least 27 inches or 68 centimeters in diameter through which the miners will eventually be brought to the surface. Hundreds of workers are using equipment from the United States and Australia in the rescue.
However, a 66cm in diameter shaft to free the men will take 120 days, said Andre Sougarret, the lead engineer on the rescue operation.
Holes created by a series of probes trying to find the miners can now be used to send food, medicine, oxygen and water to keep the men alive and in good health. Sound and video equipment can also be used so miners can better communicate with rescuers and their families.
Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health, Davitt McAteer, told the Associated Press, "The health risks in a copper and gold mine are pretty small if you have air, food and water."
McAteer said the biggest threats to the trapped miners is now the stress of being trapped underground for a long period of time. But "they've established communication with the guys, there are people who can talk them through that."
He also predicted the miners may get out much more quickly, perhaps in weeks, not months. "Twenty-five hundred feed is not a terribly big hole to drill," he told AP, particularly considered today's sophisticated drilling techniques and equipment.