BBC | 18 September 2010 | 03:10 GMT
A drill boring a rescue hole has now reached the 33 Chilean miners trapped since 5 August, officials have said. However, it will take weeks for the 630m (2,060ft) deep hole to be redrilled to allow the miners to be pulled out. The width is now 30cm (12in) and will need to be about 70cm. It is hoped the men can be freed by early November. They were trapped when the main access tunnel to the San Jose copper and gold mine near Copiapo collapsed.
Video footage made by the miners and released by the government on Friday showed scenes of jubilation as the drill broke through, showering the chamber with water and rock. The miners hugged each other, shouting "viva Chile!" and posed for the camera with broad smiles. "We are extremely excited by what has been done today," said Mario Sepulveda, who has become a spokesperson for the group. The 32 Chileans and 1 Bolivian have survived longer than any other group trapped underground. Three boreholes have already reached the men to supply them with food, water and medicine.
Atacama region Governor Ximena Matas confirmed that the Schramm T-130 probe had reached the cavern holding the trapped miners. The T-130 is Plan B of three drilling operations and is expected to be the fastest. The T-130 has had its problems, breaking a drill bit last week. The operation resumed on Tuesday. Plan A is the Strata 950 and is expected to reach the men by Christmas. Assembly of Plan C, the giant RIG-422 drill, was completed on Thursday but it has not yet started drilling. It has a two-month rescue timetable. Chile celebrates its bicentennial independence celebrations on Saturday and the miners and their families are expected to raise the Chilean flag and sing the national anthem. The men were found to be alive 12 days after the collapse and relatives have since set up Camp Hope at the pithead.