Chile Mining Rescue and Recovery

Camp Hope: San Jose, Chile

A break from my usual theme and tone to comment on the extraordinary story from Chile about rescuing 33 miners who are trapped a half-mile underground, after a cave-in on August 5.

The rescue will not be easy or fast, and is expected to last between two and four months from now. Getting supplies to the miners is a difficult operation. The rescue team has already begun sending them sugar water, medicine and nutrients, as well as letters from their loved ones. Each transmit of goods takes an hour to reach the miners and another hour back.

The plan now is to drill three shafts — one for communications, another to send food, oxygen and other supplies, and a third for ventilation. The actual rescue will not be through any of these shafts. A new 26-inch diameter vertical tunnel will have to be drilled in order to lift the miners up, one by one. I wonder how long each conveyance will take, and what it will it feel like to be hoisted through a two-foot-wide pipe, a half-mile upward? Imagine hearing the first voices, catching the first glimpse of sun, and feeling the air change from ventilated to fresh?

The miners will be working, too, receiving (small-sized) machinery the rescue teams will lower to them in pieces, then learning how to assemble and use it. They will break ground from the bottom up, clean out the material that will fall, and guide the machinery working above ground, while widening their own rescue tunnel.

So – imagine your worst day at work, and compare it to what these 33 guys are enduring. By the time their faces meet the sun, some five months will have passed.

Read more at this excellent series of dispatches and articles at Global Post.

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