THE Chilean mine rescue team have successfully tested a rescue capsule nearly all the way down to where the miners are trapped.
Leader Andres Sougarett said the empty capsule descended 2,000 feet, just 46 feet short of the chamber where 33 miners have been trapped since an August 5 collapse.
He said all would be in place at midnight local time (5am BST) to begin the rescue.
Mining Minister Laurence Golborne said that the capsule performed well in the hole and did not even loosen any dust.
The steel capsule was lowered by winch into the hole after its top 295 feet were encased in tubing.
“We didn’t send it (all the way) down, because we could risk that someone will jump in,” Golborne said.
He called the test “very promising, very positive” and said the capsule, the biggest of three built by Chilean Navy engineers, “performed very well in the duct.”
A torrent of emotions awaits the miners when they finally rejoin the outside world.
As trying as it has been for them to survive underground for more than two months, their gold and copper mine is familiar territory. Once out of the shaft, they will face challenges so bewildering, no amount of coaching can fully prepare them.
They will be celebrated at first, embraced by their families and pursued by more than 750 journalists who have converged on the mine, competing for interviews and images to feed to a world intensely curious to hear their survival story.
They have been invited to visit presidential palaces, take all expense-paid holidays and appear on countless TV shows. Contracts for book and movie deals are pending, along with job offers. More money than they could dream of is already awaiting their signature.
But eventually, a new reality will set in – and for most, it will not be anything like the life they knew before the mine collapsed.
“Before being heroes, they are victims,” psychologist Sergio Gonzalez said. “These people who are coming out of the bottom of the mine are different people . . . and their families are too.”
A tentative but secret list has been drafted regarding which miners should come out first when the extraction begins.
Two paramedics will be sent down to oversee the rescue, and will be relieved 12 hours later by another two paramedics, said Rene Aguilar, the deputy rescue chief. One by one they will take a twisting, 20-minute ride for 2,041 feet up to the rock-strewn desert and into the embrace of those they love. The capsule is expected to rotate 350 degrees 10 to 12 times through curves in the escape hole on its way up. It should take about an hour for the rescue capsule to make a round trip.
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