Whatever happened to the rescued Chilean miners?
P., I remember praying for them..
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Unprecedented teamwork of complete strangers helped save Chilean miners
Whatever happened to the 33 rescued Chilean miners? Currently they're too busy speaking about their ordeal to return to mining, says one of the drillers who helped rescue them.
Author: Dorothy KosichPosted: Thursday , 09 Jun 2011
ELKO, NV -
Over a two-decade plus career, James Stefanic, operations manager for Geotec Boyles Brothers in Chile, had drilled for oil, minerals and water.
On Aug. 5, 2010, he commenced his first and only assignment for drilling for lives.
Stefanic was called on a 69-day drill project that eventually helped save the lives of the 33 Chilean miners.
Since no one had ever performed drilling work on the San Jose mine since it was started in 1899, there were no records, no data, nothing that provided guidance as how drill holes would behave during the rescue operation. Yet, the drilling crews were trying to hit a target 20 feet in size and at a depth of 2,300 feet.
During the opening banquet of the Elko Mining Expo Wednesday night, Stefanic described the comprehensive planning and coordination involved in the drilling operation to an appreciative audience of miners, drillers, regulators and their spouses. Since Stefanic had only given this talk to one other audience at the White House, the occasion was very special for the Elko mining audience.
Despite a presentation that ran well over an hour, one could hear a pin drop in the room as the audience was glued to the videos and Powerpoint presentation Stefanic brought with him.
The drilling operation was divided into two phases. The first phase concentrated on locating the trapped miners. "That was the most critical part trying to find the guys," Stefanic observed.
The second phase focused on rescuing miners still alive, he added,
The first phase involved the services of six drilling contractors involved in the drilling of over 20 pilot holes. Since these teams had never worked together before. The highest priority was ensuring that all the crews worked together safely. "A lot of people were out there for 69 days without an accident," a feat which both Stefanic and his audience considered quite an accomplishment.
Two underground areas were targeted by the drilling contractors-a rescue shelter and the maintenance area. "Hitting three holes at that depth, the chances were greater at winning the lottery," Stefanic remarked.
The pilot hole directed toward the maintenance shop broke through on the 33rd day at 622 meters (2040 feet). The hole then became the rescue hole known as "Plan B. For the second phase, three different plans were followed by three different companies.
The maintenance shop hole was expanded despite a series of equipment mishaps as harmers and other tools broke within the hole. Fishing tools were designed on site and by top drilling equipment manufacturers to fish the parts out of the hole.
Meanwhile, drilling teams were also worried about getting "a bunch of dust down there and suffocate the guys," said Stefanic.
Fortunately, the trapped miners were able to provide a unique perspective about underground conditions in the hole that drillers had previously never experienced. They sent up maps and videos to help guide the drilling process.
Eventually the hole was widened to 28 inches. Chilean uber copper miner Codelco wanted casing placed all along the rescue hole to keep it from collapsing. However, the decision was made to limit the casing to 55 meters in the top section, which was the most unstable part of the hole, said Stefanic.
Stefanic noted that the Chilean government "did a very good job of supporting logistics," quipping it was the "first time I could get anything in the country without paperwork."
A test run of the Fenix capsule that was to transport the 33 miners, one-by-one to the surface was made 2½ days before the miners were brought out of the mine.
Stefanic observed that the trapped miners were able to keep their hopes up during the entire ordeal. "They knew they were going to get out of there."
Ironically, on the day they were rescued, Oct. 8, 2010, Stefanic was home with his wife watching the rescue on TV just like the billions who tuned in to watch the miracle unfold.
When asked by Minewebif the successful rescue would provide new information or methods for future mine rescues, Stefanic noted that a large group of people who had never worked together before "faced a lot of problems and solved a lot of them."
The key to this is putting the right team together, he stressed. Nearly everyone working at the minesite was considered the best in their field, domestically and globally.
When asked if the miners would return underground, Stefanic responded, "Not a lot of them have returned yet because they are having too good a time."
"They're getting a lot of invitations to speak all over the world," he added.
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