After being trapped underground for 69 days, all the 33 miners trapped in Chile’s San Jose copper and gold mine were finally brought to the surface around 9 pm EDT on Wednesday October, 13, having been trapped since August 5th. The rescue mission was a perfect combination of high technology and engineering, construction expertise, experience, and patience.
A careful application of engineering strategy by a team of experienced engineers banking on teamwork finally made the procedure a success. New technological innovation was applied from the initial process of creating a 700m drill hole that linked the miners to the outside world. The rescue effort was the deepest ever made by current records mining disasters, and the miners underground stay was the longest ever recorded.
The rescue effort of the Chile miners was one of the most advanced rescues of its kind. The first step of the operation involved the boring of three-6cm wide- drill holes that aided the trapped miners in communication with the external world (NewsFlavor, para. 3). This helped the rescuers in knowing the conditions inside the mine, more importantly; the holes were used to send food, water and medication to the miners. These holes also served as ventilators through which the workers received air, more than 600m below the earth’s surface.
The engineering team developed what came to be known as Plan A- the initial step in the rescue effort. Later, two other plans were developed, known as plan B and C, during the process. The team developed several options to use in case others failed (NewsFlavor, para. 4).
Before the actual rescue began, rescue teams made a capsule that would be used to lift up the miners, the capsule was constructed by the Chilean Navy with assistance from the NASA. The rescue hole was also bored and was 0.66m in length while then capsule was 0.54 m in diameter.
Every precaution was taken while constructing the capsule to prevent scenarios such as the capsule hitting the sides of the tunnel (for which it had retractable wheels), besides, it had Oxygen supply, lighting, communication devices, a strengthened roof to protect against falling rocks, and an escape exit for the miner to lower himself down in case the capsule malfunctioned.
The rescue began on Tuesday, 12 October. The first rescuer lowered to aid the miners was Manuel Gonzalez, a skilled rescue expert and employee of mining company Codelco, the descent to the miners lasted 18 minutes. Each miner was strapped into a harness inside the capsule, wearing a green water-resistant overall and goggles to avoid eye damage due to first exposure to sunlight. Once the miner was inside, the capsule took roughly 15 minutes to travel to the surface.
The miners were placed into three categories: the skilled; weak; and strong. The skilled miners were lifted first as they could easily handle any malfunctions from the rescue effort. Next were the weak-those with health problems, and finally the strong. The whole rescue process lasted 33 hours, each cycle lasting an average of one hour.
Upon arrival at the surface, the miners were allowed to bond with three relatives and immediately taken to the hospital for triage. The whole ordeal was a call-up for mining companies all over the world to increase security measures at the mines.
NewsFlavor. September 29, 2010. How the Miners in Chile Will be Rescued. Retrieved December 4, 2010, from http://newsflavor.com/world/latin-america/how-the-trapped-miners-in-chile-will-be-rescued/