San Jose Mine: The rescue of 33 miners trapped in a Chilean mine is likely to start on Wednesday, Mining Minister Laurence Golborne said hours after a drill shaft broke through to the trapped men.
"We are setting the likely start date of the rescue around Wednesday," Golborne told reporters yesterday, adding that engineers needed time to stabilise the shaft through which the men will exit.
A day and a half would be needed to reinforce the exit shaft by encasing it with steel piping for about 96 meters , work that would begin overnight Saturday into Sunday, Golborne said.
After that, an additional 48 hours would be needed to install the metal cage and the complex pulley system for lowering it to the miners and lifting them out one by one.
If the rescue starts on Wednesday, all the miners could expect to be out and reunited with loved ones by Friday, after an ordeal that has lasted nearly two and a half months.
The miners have been trapped deep underground after a partial collapse that blocked the exit of the northern Chile copper and gold mine since August 5, surviving longer than anyone has before under similar circumstances.
For weeks after the collapse, the men were feared dead, but on August 22 they were able to send up a note attached to a drill bit that proclaimed they had all survived in an emergency shelter and were awaiting rescue.
Earlier Saturday, on the 66th day of their confinement, drillers succeeded in boring a 622 meter deep shaft all the way to through to the area where the men have been living since the collapse.