SUDBURY, Ontario – The 2010 rescue of 33 Chilean miners trapped underground for 33 days has captured the imagination and attention of people around the world, but few have heard the story first-hand from the American driller who co-ordinated the rescue effort, known as “Plan B.”
In his first Canadian appearance, Brandon Fisher, owner of Center Rock Inc., delivered a gripping presentation at Cambrian College
in Sudbury. Fisher co-presented with Cambrian alumna and author Suzanne Bernier, whose book, Disaster Heroes: Invisible Champions of Help, Hope and Healing
, contains a chapter dedicated to the incredible rescue that took place at the San Jose mine in Copiapó, Chile.
In his presentation, Fisher detailed how the miners were trapped in a refuge 700 metres underground, and officials had no workable plan to send them water or food, or to retrieve them alive. Fisher believed his company’s technology and team could save the miners, and he lobbied the American and Chilean authorities to let his team try.
[caption id="attachment_1003713984" align="alignleft" width="300"] Author Suzanne Bernier (left) and driller Brandon Fisher (right) at the book signing for Disaster Heroes, which took place at the conclusion of Brandon Fisher’s presentation at Cambrian College in Sudbury.
He proposed a rescue using a combination of pneumatic hammer drills to bore a 140 mm pilot hole through the rock, which was rated at 39,000 psi (approximately twice as hard as tombstone granite). The rock was also riddled with large chunks of quartz, making it extremely abrasive. The process was onerous, to say the least. But, the pilot hole allowed for water, food, and medical supplies to reach the trapped miners and for a line of communication to be established. The next steps involved widening the hole until it reached 710-mm in diameter, so each man could be hoisted to the surface in a rescue capsule.
The final two metres of drilling were the most stressful. The drill was just outside of the refuge where the miners were located, so they could hear the equipment.
“It took us hours,” Fisher said. “We were caught up in wire mesh, there were rock bolts ... but, the euphoria … I can’t describe how we felt when we finally broke through that hole. It was such a sense of relief.”
Once drilled, it took less than 24 hours for each man to be returned to the surface in the rescue capsule through the 800-metre shaft.
Fisher added that after the Chilean mine rescue, the U.S. government took steps to enhance emergency preparedness by staging equipment that could be shipped and put into action quickly, to expedite rescue efforts in worst case scenarios.
The foregoing was supplied by Lynn Bulloch of Cambrian College.