Drill Mishap Causes Delay in Chilean Mine Rescue

SANTIAGO – A hammer drill being used to reach 33 men trapped for almost seven weeks inside a mine in northern Chile broke off and fell to the bottom of the shaft, although no workers were injured, authorities said Wednesday.

Engineer Andre Sougarret, who is in charge of the rescue operation, told reporters that Wednesday morning’s incident affected the Schramm T-130 drill, which is being used in “Plan B” to reach the miners.

“One of the hammer drills became detached from its base and fortunately fell down the same initial hole and the miners who were below received it,” the engineer said.

“These are the types of unforeseen things that can happen,” he said.

The incident forced rescuers to stop drilling after completing 85 meters (278 feet) of a second stage to widen the shaft, although they were expected to resume work soon.

The Strata 950 machine corresponding to “Plan A” has reached a depth of 361 meters (1,180 feet) and is still working on its initial diameter bore.

Meanwhile, the RIG-421 machine corresponding to “Plan C,” which is drilling a 66-centimeter (26-inch) diameter bore hole, was operating once again Wednesday after work was halted briefly while workers covered the bore hole walls with cement.

The 33 miners were trapped on Aug. 5 when a landslide caused a tunnel at the San Jose copper and gold mine to collapse above them, but they managed to survive by taking refuge in a large underground shelter.

Rescuers made contact on Aug. 22 with the trapped miners, who have been receiving food, water, medical supplies and extra oxygen via small bore holes.

One of the shafts that could be used to bring the men to the surface reached the area where they are trapped but must still be widened, a process expected to take several weeks.



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