Threefold drilling effort to rescue
A faster drilling machine was being assembled yesterday to enlarge an existing supply shaft to 33 Chilean trapped miners, as work on the main shaft continued and a special rescue cage was being built by the Navy.
A third alternative, or plan "C," involving a football-pitch-size oil drilling platform was also under way and expected to begin drilling a third rescue shaft by September 18 (Chile's Independence Day), said President Sebastian Pinera.
The battle to reach the men trapped 700 meters (2,300 feet) underground since an August 5 collapse presents a twofold challenge: drilling through the rock and managing the psychological effects of prolonged isolation deep underground.
A group of NASA officials wrapped up a three day visit to the mine Friday with a report recommending the miners be given extra doses of vitamin D, to compensate for the lack of sunlight, an adequate exercise regimen and activities to keep them busy.
"We've got three alternative plans: plan A is up and running, plan B... should be starting on Sunday, and plan C is in the works so that by September 18 a third option is up and running," said the rescue operation's chief engineer Andres Sougarret.
"For now, we've got those three alternatives, but we're still dealing with a three to four month timeframe for the rescue," he added.
Engineers Friday resumed drilling with the Australian-made Strata 950 excavator after a brief halt Thursday when the drill hit a geological fault 40 meters (130 feet) down that had to be reinforced with concrete to make it water tight.
A second drill that will widen a supply chute to the miners and could aid their rescue, arrived Friday dismantled atop five trucks at the site of the copper and gold mine in Chile's Atacama desert, some 800 kilometers (500 miles) north of Santiago.