18 Sep 2010

Rescue drill reaches trapped miners

2:31 pm on 18 September 2010

One of the drills that will be used to rescue 33 Chilean miners trapped deep underground has reached its target depth.

The drill has taken to a depth of 630 metres a narrow pilot hole that will have to be enlarged to allow the men to escape.

That is expected to take weeks, the BBC reports. It is hoped the men will be freed by early November.

Three bore holes have already reached the 32 Chileans and one Bolivian to supply them with food, water and medicine as well as cigarettes and notes from loved ones.

AFP reports the T-130 drilling machine opened up a 30cm hole in the roof of a tunnel which now has to be widened to 70cm, with the miners themselves working to clear the rubble from the excavation.

The drill is one of three brought in to the site. Another has descended only 300 metres, and a third, much faster drill, is expected to begin work in days.

Whichever escape tunnel ends up being finished first, it will have to accommodate a special bullet-shaped capsule that will haul each of the miners to the surface.

They were trapped when the main access tunnel to the San Jose copper and gold mine near Copiapo collapsed on 5 August.