SAN JOSE MINE, Chile (Oct. 8) — Drillers neared the lower reaches of a gold and copper mine where 33 men have been trapped for more than two months, preparing Friday for a breakthrough that would unleash a national outpouring of joy.
Engineers had just the last 128 feet (39 meters) of rock to carve through, and were working carefully to keep the T130 drill from jamming or punching through with too much force, Mining Minister Laurence Golborne said.
“We are very close,” Golborne said. “It would be very complicated if after all the work we have done … you lose the hole. We have to be very careful and do it in a controlled way.”
The “Plan B” drill was poised to win a three-way race to reach the miners with a hole wide enough to accommodate their escape capsule. Two other drills, “Plan A” and “Plan C,” had to slow down after repeatedly veering off course.
The breakthrough – to be heralded with a loud siren – was sure to be an emotional milestone in the tent city known as “Camp Hope.”
“There’s just a little bit left to go, a very little bit,” said Cristina Nunez, anxious to see her husband, Claudio Yanez, and shivering in the bitter cold of the desert morning.