Chile mine rescue may spur more rescue efforts worldwide
The Chilean miners' ability to survive 17 days trapped underground without outside contact could spur future rescue missions to persevere when hope seems lost.
Chile's 33 trapped miners hadn't even been hauled to the surface when a coal mine collapse in Colombia trapped two more workers. Days later, four more miners were trapped underground in Ecuador. And in China, a coal mine explosion Saturday trapped 16 underground.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Chile mine rescue
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In each case, rescuers scrambled to save lives. In Colombia, authorities kept digging for four days before finding the miners' bodies. In Ecuador, efforts continued today to rescue two miners trapped underground since Friday, with President Rafael Correa personally getting involved. In China, hundreds of rescue workers searched until today following the accident Saturday.
Industry insiders say the intense efforts to rescue these trapped miners, rather than writing them off for dead, may be one of the lasting impacts of the San Jose mine rescue. The Chilean miners survived a half-mile underground for 17 days before making contact with rescue workers, persevering for a total 70 days before returning to the earth's surface.
Worldwide exposure of that rescue mission will make it more likely that authorities will mount future rescue efforts, says Richard Soppe of Center Rock Inc. in Pennsylvania, which manufactured the massive drill bits used to rescue the miners in Chile. "This was deepest rescue ever imagined, much less completed, and that they made it 17 days with nothing, no contact or support from outside at all, will make rescues more likely."
Mr. Soppe says he hopes that mining areas, whether at the state, national, or international level, start to prepare for disasters so that rescue responses can be faster. Preparation ahead of the Chile accident could have cut two weeks off of the rescue time, he says.
Pressure for reform
Mine safety and rescue efforts have improved in recent years. Even before the San Jose mine situation, Center Rock was in touch with South African authorities about selling them large-diameter drilling equipment to facilitate rescues of trapped miners, says Soppe. A Chinese rescue company was also shopping for rescue equipment as recently as last week, he adds.