San Jose: Chile`s President said on Sunday that his government has done everything within its power to rescue 33 miners trapped underground for 47 days and counting, but wouldn`t venture a guess as to when they`ll be pulled out.
Sebastian Pinera spoke as a huge oil industry drill began carving a third escape tunnel that could potentially provide the first way to extricate the men through a half-mile of solid rock.
"Today (Sunday) for the first time we have three machines working simultaneously. We don`t know when they will reach them. But we know one thing -- with the help of God, they will reach them," Pinera declared after touring the drilling operation and meeting with the miners` families.
"I can assure you we have done everything possible. We have done our best," he said.
Chile begins drilling 3rd hole
The fastest of three drilling machines brought in to help rescue the 33 workers deep in a Chilean mine began boring into the Earth yesterday in its bid to reach the trapped men.
Chilean President Sebastian Pinera was present as the RIG-422, a drill usually used on oil platforms, (sputtered) to life above the collapsed San Jose gold and copper mine, where a 30-centimetre-wide rescue hole reached the miners earlier this week but would need to be widened before anyone could be safely lifted out.
"Today, for the first time, there are three machines working together" in the rescue effort, said Pinera, who visited the site with Chilean writer Isabel Allende in order to help mark yesterday`s bicentennial of independence with the miners, who became instant national heroes when they were found alive on August 22.
The T-130 drill, which completed its 630-meter (2,070-foot) shaft and broke through on Friday to the tunnel where the miners were holed up, was the second machine brought in to bore a rescue hole.
The first drill, a slower Strata 950 hydraulic bore, has so far descended only 320 meters into the ground.
Each of those would be expanded to a planned 70 centimetres in diameter to accommodate the miners.
The RIG-422 is a one-shot effort, drilling a 60-centimetre hole -- about the diameter of a bicycle wheel -- that the miners could then pass through.
Whichever escape tunnel is finished first will have to accommodate a special bullet-shaped capsule which will haul each of the miners to the surface.