Drill Reaches Trapped Chilean Miners – Now the Tough Call

From the Chicago Sun-Times:

SAN JOSE MINE, Chile–Sixty-six agonizing days after their gold and copper mine collapsed above them, 33 miners were offered a way out Saturday as a drill broke through to their underground purgatory.

Word of the drill’s success prompted cheers, tears and the ringing of bells by families in the tent camp outside the mine. Some who have kept a vigil since the Aug. 5 disaster ran up a hill where 33 Chilean flags were planted, chanting and shouting with joy as a siren rang throughout "Camp Hope," confirming the breakthrough.

The "Plan B" drill won a three-way race against two other drills to carve a hole wide enough for an escape capsule to pull the miners out one by one.

While "Plan A" and "Plan C" stalled after repeatedly veering off course, the "Plan B" drill reached the miners at a point 2,047 feet (624 meters) below the surface after pushing through the final 128 feet (39 meters) overnight.

The milestone thrilled Chileans, who have come to see the rescue drama as a test of the nation’s character and pride, and eased some anxiety among the miners’ families.

But now comes a difficult judgment call: The rescue team must decide whether it’s more risky to pull the miners through unreinforced rock, or to insert tons of heavy steel pipe into the curved shaft to protect the miners on their way up.

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