COPIAPO, Chile — Engineers reinforced a
lifeline to 33 miners entombed deep inside a Chilean gold and copper mine,
preparing to keep them supplied with food, water, medicine and communications
during the four months it may take to carve a tunnel wide enough to pull them
A team of doctors and psychiatric
experts are also onsite at the remote mine, implementing a plan to maintain the
miners’ sanity as well.
“We need to urgently establish
what psychological situation they are in. They need to understand what we know
up here at the surface, that it will take many weeks for them to reach the
light,” Health Minister Jaime Manalich explained.
Rescuers will be sending capsules
filled with materials through a six inch wide bore-hole leading into the
miners’ refuge more than 2,257 feet below the surface.
An enormous machine with
diamond-tipped drills capable of carving a person-sized tunnel through solid
rock at a velocity of 20 meters a day is on its way to the San Jose gold and copper
mine outside Copiapo in north-central Chile.
Engineers also were boring two more
narrow shafts to the trapped men to ensure that their lifelines would remain
intact while the larger tunnel is being carved.
It will be important for the men’s
well-being to keep them busy and well-supported throughout this ordeal,
The men have been trapped since 5
August when the tunnel collapsed, longer than all but a few miners rescued in
The miners’ survival after 18 days
is very unusual, but since they’ve made it this far, they should emerge
physically fine, said Davitt McAteer, who was assistant secretary for mine
safety and health at the U.S. Labor Department under President Bill Clinton.