Chilean Miners Alive, but Face Months More Underground

BY Talea Miller  August 23, 2010 at 6:10 PM EDT

Relatives of the trapped miners; AFP/Getty
Plans to free 33 miners trapped in a copper and gold mine in Chile could take four months, according to the head of rescue operations, but the country’s president has appealed to other nations to help speed the rescue effort.

On Sunday, contact was established for the first time with the miners, who have been underground since Aug. 5, when rescuers were able to retrieve a note from the men that read: “The 33 of us are fine in the shelter.”

The team also lowered a small video camera down a newly drilled access hole and captured video of one of the miners alive and responsive.

The miners are trapped in an emergency refuge in the mine below a collapsed tunnel.

“Today all of Chile is crying with excitement and joy,” President Sebastian Pinera said after news of the note broke. On Monday, Pinera appealed for any international help that could provide engineering or technical expertise to speed up the rescue.

The miners are trapped 700 meters (0.43 mile) below the surface, reports the BBC. Now food and water will be passed to the miners through the existing hole until a wider hole can be made to pull the miners out.

A photo gallery in the Canadian National Post shows some of the emotional reactions of family members.

The Guardian also has an account of a miner describing the psychological impact of being trapped in a mine. Todd Russell was caught in a safety cage in a gold mine in northern Tasmania in 2006.

“We were stuck underground for 14 days in a small pocket of air. We couldn’t stand up or even sit up,” Russell said. “I personally don’t think the miners in Chile will recover from this. We will never recover from our experience either.”

When the outlook for the Chile miners looked far bleaker earlier this month, Bloomberg News reported the country planned to push through an overhaul of the mining industry as a response to the accident.

We’ll have more on the Chilean miner story on Monday’s NewsHour, including an interview with Bloomberg reporter Matt Craze in Santiago.