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Plan C for Chile mine rescue: Use oil drill

By Karl Penhaul, CNN
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Three plans for miners' rescue
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The idea could be the fastest of the three options currently underway
  • Officials guess miners will not be hauled above ground until November or early December
  • Drill needs to be transported first from Iquique, a city in northern Chile, and installed
  • Drill expected to be running before the middle of September, CNN has learned

Capiapo, Chile (CNN) -- Hedging their bets, officials in Chile said on Sunday they will set up an oil drill as a third option to rescue the 33 miners trapped underground since August 5.

The idea, which is Plan C, could be the fastest of the three options currently underway. However, the drill needs to be transported first from Iquique, a city in northern Chile, and then installed.

The drill is expected to be up and running around the middle of September, Chilean government officials said in an electronic presentation given to CNN.

Still, the estimated time it will take to rescue the workers has not changed, they said. Depending on ground conditions and the technology used, officials guess the workers will not be hauled above ground until November, or early December.

The 33 miners have been stuck inside the Chilean mine since August. They were found alive -- safe in a shelter some 2,300 feet (701 meters) underground -- nearly three weeks after a cave-in.

See details of the plans (in Spanish PDF)

Meanwhile, rescue workers are moving forward with their first two plans. All three can happen at the same time as they approach the mine from different directions.

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On Friday, a new drill arrived that engineers hope could reach the miners in as little as two months. The drill, which is normally used to bore water holes, is part of Plan B. It is untried technology in a mine rescue.

The first plan, Plan A, involves using a drill placed directly above the shelter where the miners are hold up. Engineers say the drill would need to reach a distance of some 701 meters. They have estimated this plan would take between three and four months to complete.

Plan B would drill at a roughly 80 degree angle into an area of mine shaft that is used as a mechanical workshop. That distance, engineers estimate, is around 620 meters. Plan C would need to drill some 600 meters, they said.

 
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