CHILE – Today’s news is good news. All 33 of the Chilean miners trapped in an underground gold mine for 69 days have been safely lifted to the surface. The last man emerged from the rescue capsule late Wednesday night. They were trapped 700 metres below the surface when a fall of ground destroyed the ramp, followed two days later by a second event that clogged the ventilation shaft.
The plight of the miners was watched avidly around the globe. The international press converged on the small town of Copiapo. So did an international community of people with the special expertise needed to effect a successful rescue. Rescue teams from Chile, a drill from Ireland, drilling rigs and crews from South Africa, Canada and the United States hastened to the site. NASA sent a crew to help the miners deal with enforced confinement in an extreme environment. Medical teams and public relations experts arrived. The miners’ families and friends set up a tent city at the site, and thanks to small diameter drill holes, were able to communicate with the trapped miners via telephone, video and written messages.
There was a Canadian connection to the rescue efforts. Oil and gas industry expert Precision Drilling of Calgary shipped a special drill bit made by Mining Technologies International of Sudbury, ON. It would have been used by one of Precision’s rigs already in Chile to ream one of the original pilot holes to a diameter through which a man could have been rescued. Doing that could have taken until near the end of the year. Instead, a large diameter percussion drill sent by American firm Center Rock did the of boring the rescue shaft much faster.
Another Canadian connection came in the form of temporary shelters supplied by Calgary’s Atco Structures & Logistics and its South American partner Tecno Fast Atco. The mobile buildings were used for triage and medical observation of the miners.
Well done, everyone, who played a part in the record-setting survival and rescue of “Los 33”.