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2010- Copiapó miners are recovered after 69 days underground

October 13, 2022

In August 2010, one of the most publicized mining accidents occurred in Chile. Thirty-three copper miners were trapped in a privately owned San Jose mine.

How it Happened

San Esteban Mining Company had a number of safety violations that had caused more than one death. On this particular day, a tunnel of a medium-sized mine collapsed, trapping 33 men underground.

A local emergency squad on site attempted to rescue the trapped miners but was unsuccessful. To make things worse, a second collapse that occurred in August blocked access to the ventilation shafts. Rescuers resorted to drilling exploratory holes to send listening probes to discern signs of life in the mine. After 17 days of no response, many believe the miners had perished.

The story went viral after that seventeenth day when a state-owned mining company, Codelco, detected tapping from one of the 30 listening probes. He then pulled a note from the bottom of the shaft, indicating that the 33 miners were alive.

A video feed through the drilled hole confirmed that the miners trapped 2,300 feet underground were unharmed. Miraculously, the miners had survived on 2-day emergency rations for 17 days without contact with the surface team.

The Rescue

The miners split into three groups and worked an 8-hour shift to remove debris and reinforce the mine as the team outside drilled tunnels to accessible chambers.

The rescue team prepared three separate drilling rigs for three holes. They prepared three plans, dubbed Plan A, B, and C. The team expected to extract the miners in December. However, the Plan B team completed a connecting tunnel on October 9. Four days later, on October 13, one billion people watched as the miners were pulled from the mine after 69 long days. The miners climbed through a specially designed capsule in a 15-minute journey from the bottom of the shaft to the ground.

A medical checkup at the rescue scene showed that the miners were in good health, except for one person with pneumonia. Sixty-three-year-old Mario Gomez was treated with antibiotics.

The cost to pull the miners was exorbitant, but private donations covered ⅓ of the $20 million expenses. The rest was provided by the mine owners and the government.


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