COPIAPO, Chile — The crew drilling one of three shafts attempting to
reach 33 miners trapped deep underground in northern Chile is making
fast progress, officials said, and could reach the miners by early next
The T-130 drill, part of an effort dubbed "Plan B," burrowed
53 meters (173 feet) in 16 hours and is a mere 100 meters from a
chamber the trapped miners can access, said Andre Sougarret, the
engineer in charge of rescue operations.
The news raised hopes
among relatives camped on the surface that the trapped miners could be
out by early next week.
Sougarret, however, was cautious about
setting a time frame because work was entering a delicate phase.
operations have been paused until midnight, and will resume at a slower
pace because it will be boring down a mere meter (yard) away from a
separate corridor inside the mine. If the corridor is breached it could
create problems for the rescue operation, Sougarret said.
decreasing the drilling speed so that we get by the corridor carefully,"
"Once we have reached 535 meters (1,748 feet) of
depth, we can resume the rhythm that we have had up to now," he told
reporters outside the mine.
The miners, who have been trapped
underground for two months, will be extracted one by one in a
custom-built cage that has an outer diameter of 23 inches (58
They will be wearing special sunglasses to protect
their eyes when they emerge into the daylight, after more than two
months in near-darkness.
"The benefit (of the glasses) is that
they filter out the sunlight. They do not cause any problems," but do
give eyes more time to adjust to light, said Alejandro Pino, regional
manager of the Chilean Safety Association at the San Jose mine.
special glasses were donated by a US company, and have a market price
of 450 dollars a pair.