Friday 17 September 2010 | Chile feed

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Chile miners: engineers unveil 21ins wide rescue capsule

Chilean authorities have approved the design of a 21 ins wide rescue capsule that will eventually transport each of the 33 trapped miners 2,300 feet to the surface of the Atacama desert.

 
Chilean authorities have approved the design of a 21 ins wide rescue capsule that will eventually transport each of the 33 trapped miners 2,300 feet to the surface of the Atacama desert.
An artist's impression shows three views of the capsule being built to rescue the 33 trapped miners Photo: REUTERS

After enduring what is expected to be between three and four months trapped within the San Jose mine the men will have to climb into a narrow cylindrical pod for the ascent - a journey that will take at least an hour.

A technical team from the Chile's Navy will start constructing the bullet-shaped chamber so it is ready when one of three drilling efforts finally bores through the solid rock to create a shaft wide enough to raise the men, who have been trapped since the mine collapsed on August 5.

The steel rescue cage will have an external diameter of just 54 cms (21 inches) and a reinforced roof to protect its passenger against any rocks or debris that may be dislodged during the journey to the surface.

This week the miners started an exercise regime to ensure they are kept slim enough to fit into the capsule.

The men, who will be raised one by one in an operation expected to last several days, will be strapped into the chamber in a harness that will keep them in a secure standing position even if they faint.

A guidance system using wheels to guide it up the shaft should help minimise friction and video link will allow rescuers to communicate with the miner throughout the ascent.

The 2.5m (8ft 2in) long capsule will also be provided with an oxygen supply and a special lighting system and will include an escape hatch and a safety device that the passenger can use to lower himself back to the starting point should it get stuck along the way up.

The device was designed by a naval technical team at the Maestranzas shipyard on the specific orders of Chile's president Sebastian Piñera.

Meanwhile only one of three drilling efforts at the gold and copper mine near Copiapo, 450 miles north of Santiago, was operational at the start of the week.

The so-called Plan A had bored 750ft through solid rock by Monday afternoon but Plan B, which uses a higher velocity drill had been halted since last week after the drill bit shattered after reaching a depth of 880 feet when it struck an iron support beam within the mine.

Engineers had been unable to remove pieces of the broken drill and were considering abandoning the shaft and starting afresh elsewhere.

Plan C is currently underway and will see the installation of a petroleum drill on a platform the size of a football pitch that should be ready to start later this month.

 
 
Puff infographic trapped miners
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