11 Sep 2010

New drilling equipment reaches Chilean mine

2:40 pm on 11 September 2010

Huge trucks carrying equipment to drill a third tunnel to rescue 33 men trapped deep inside a Chilean mine have arrived at the site.

Relatives of the trapped miners cheered and waved flags as they welcomed the first trucks that rolled in around 8.30am on Friday.

Their arrival was delayed as excavators and bulldozers had to broaden the entrance to the San Jose mine near Copiapo, a city about 800km north of Santiago, to accommodate the giant trucks.

The trapped miners have become national heroes since they were found alive on 22 August - 17 days after a cave-in at the mine in the remote Atacama desert. The miners are trapped about 700m below the surface.

Rescuers are dropping food and water down narrow shafts to the miners to keep them alive, along with medicines and games to keep them healthy and occupied while a shaft is drilled to rescue them - a process that could take months.

The 42 trucks bringing the new equipment arrived from the coastal town of Iquique in waves because there is not enough room in the camp work zone for all the vehicles at the same time.

The giant drill they were bringing can drill up to 2000m below the surface at a speed - depending on the density of the ground - of between 20m and 40m a day, Chilean officials said.

The drill requires a football-pitch size base to set up and is expected to begin tunnelling down toward the trapped miners around 18 September.

Separately, the main drilling machine shut down for repairs late on Wednesday after digging 268m. It is working to broaden a 630m shaft. Another, smaller machine is also being used.