Chile mine rescuers work on ‘Plan B’

Engineers in Chile are working on a plan
that they hope will dramatically speed up the rescue of 33 miners trapped in a
collapsed shaft.

Workers are due on Monday to start
drilling an escape shaft going about 700m (2,300ft) underground, which is
likely to take four months to complete.

But engineers say widening an existing
tunnel may reach the men in two months.

Officials are looking at several plans
to rescue the men, who have been stuck below ground since 5 August.

Engineer Walter Herrera told reporters:
“We can broaden the hole that is already there with the latest generation
machines and using a wider diameter bore.”

Mr Herrera said government experts were
studying his proposal.

Health Minister Jaime Manalich announced
on Saturday that “Plan B has already been designed”, promising more
details later.

However, Mining Minister Laurence
Golborne had earlier dismissed speculation that the miners could be rescued in
as little as 30 or 60 days.

“The information is extremely
clear, the time frame is… between three and four months,” Mr Golborne
told local media, according to AFP news agency.

As part of the original plan, Chile has
imported a special hydraulic bore to drill the escape shaft down to the miners.

The Strata 950 will drill a shaft down
to the men, and a capsule can be lowered to rescue the men one by one.