Canadian Consulting Engineer

Sudbury technology used to try to reach Chilean miners

October 15, 2010
By Canadian Consulting Engineer

At least one Canadian technology was used in the attempts to rescue the 33 miners trapped 630 metres undergrou...

At least one Canadian technology was used in the attempts to rescue the 33 miners trapped 630 metres underground in the San Jose copper and gold mine in northern Chile.
The miners were trapped on August 5 after a main tunnel collapsed. Seventeen days later they were discovered to be alive and well, all sheltering in a safe area. A small inches-wide pilot hole had been drilled down to the safe area, and that small channel became their lifeline. It took until mid-October for drills to penetrate the extremely hard rock with a hole large enough for them to be hauled out on October 13.
Different plans had been put in place to drill the escape holes, and Plan B led by Center Rock of Berlin, Pennsylvania was the first to reach the trapped miners. While the world watched in awe over the day and night of October 13, one by one the miners were hauled up to the surface through a hole little wider than their shoulders.
The Phoenix rescue capsule that was winched up through the hole weighed 420 kilograms and was 1.9 metres long, with retractable wheels and fitted with an oxygen supply and intercom. The capsule was repeatedly lowered through the shaft at around 1 metre a second to bring the miners and rescue workers up to the surface, taking about 15 minutes for each trip.
Canadians were involved in Plan A, the “turtle plan,” which started drilling but didn’t reach the miners. Their strategy involved a special drill bit designed by Mining Technologies International Inc. of Greater Sudbury.
The amazing story has captivated the world. Until this event, no one had survived so long underground. The escape plan was executed “flawlessly,” and all the miners were reported to be in fair physical condition.
The president of Childe, Sebastian Pinera, has ordered an overhaul of Chile’s mine safety regulations.
The U.S. drilling team that reached the miners used a low-profile drill with canisters that each contain four air hammers and four drill bits that move in tandem.


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