“We can broaden the hole that’s already there with the latest generation machines and using a wider diameter bore…..In ideal conditions, this could take around two months.”
That’s the rescue plan put forward over the weekend of August 29th 2010 by Walter Herrera, Senior Manager with Geotec, a company proposing to rescue the miners well before Christmas.
At time of writing the Chilean government is getting the longer drilling process underway on Monday 30th August 2010. This rescue effort will use a powerful Australian Strata 950 mining machine to drill from scratch, but talks with Geotec are ongoing. The engineer overseeing the drilling is Andrés Sougarret.
As the rescue operation starts on the surface outside the collapsed San Jose mine in northern Chile, a medical team is looking after the miners’ health as well as they can in the circumstances.
The 33 miners have been advised to relocate to a drier part of the mine. One of the big health risks they face as they are forced to settle in underground for at least two months is humidity. In temperatures of more than 32 degrees, high humidity can quickly create sanitary problems and health problems. Any infection in such damp conditions can quickly spread and become serious. The Chilean minister of mining, Laurence Golborne – who has many questions to answer about the behaviour of the San Jose mine owners – said the miners would relocate to a drier shelter underground.
His health counterpart, Jaime Manalich, added that the men were being given high quality rations to keep them well and boost their resistance. There are reasonably clean sources of water down in the mine and water purifying tablets are being passed down to the miners to ensure their water is drinkable. They have also been able to change their clothes after weeks wearing the same ones.
Over the weekend the miners were vaccinated against tetanus, diphtheria, flu and pneumococcus. The vaccinations were administered by one of the miners, Johnny Barrios, who has undertaken nursing training.
To maintain morale and try to avert psychological and emotional problems, the men are in contact with their families. They talk by radio-telephone, exchange written messages and make videos.
The contact is of course vital for the relatives of the miners too. Speaking after a phone call to her husband Jessica Cortez, wife of trapped miner Victor Zamora, said she had very mixed emotions. “It was a short conversation” she said. “Lovely. We needed to talk to calm ourselves.”
Another miner’s wife Jessica Chille simply said that – understandably – hearing her husband Dario’s voice was a huge relief.