| GEO World|
Quick progress made to Chilean miners
| Updated at: 0024 PST, Thursday, September 09, 2010|
COPIAPO: A tunnel being drilled to the trapped Chilean miners is making remarkably quick progress, but officials stuck Wednesday to the rescue target of between early November and early December.
In just three days, a drilling rig has bored down 268 meters (880 feet), making it through almost half the 630 meters (2,067 feet) of earth and rock that separate the 33 trapped miners from freedom and their loved ones.
At the present rate the driller would reach the miners as early as Sunday or Monday, but lead engineer Andres Sougarret cautioned that this "is only the first stage."
A wider drill bit must then be attached before the whole process is repeated in order to make a hole big enough to lower a special cage to pull up the workers one by one.
Despite the caution of officials, who are loath to sell false hope to the families of the 32 Chileans and one Bolivian trapped below, the Schramm T-130 appears to be surpassing all expectations so far.
In just 48 hours it went deeper than the Strata 950 machine working on the "Plan A" tunnel and which has only managed 141 meters (463 feet) in nine days.
A convoy of trucks bearing a third drilling machine that will allow rescuers to put into action "Plan C" was due to begin arriving at the San Jose mine, near Copiapo, later Wednesday, Sougarret said.
President Sebastian Pinera has expressed hope the massive oil drilling machine, which requires a football pitch-sized base to be set up, can begin work by September 18, Chile's Independence Day.