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Oil drilling platform arrives at Chilean mine to aid in rescue

By Patrick Oppmann, CNN
Trucks carrying parts for a new drilling rig arrive Friday at a mine where 33 miners are trapped.
Trucks carrying parts for a new drilling rig arrive Friday at a mine where 33 miners are trapped.
  • NEW: One miner's sister says the drill is "hope for the boys"
  • Platform, called Plan C, will be part of operation to drill to reach the miners
  • Plan A drill is making progress; Plan B drill has hit a snag
  • 33 miners have been trapped for 35 days, 2,300 feet under the earth

Copiapo, Chile (CNN) -- A large oil drilling platform arrived Thursday at the Chilean mine where 33 trapped miners are awaiting rescue.

The oil platform is part of Plan C, the third operation to drill to reach the miners. Chilean mining officials have said they believe that drill will dig faster than the other drills currently at work. But they cautioned that the miners, trapped since August 5, still may not be rescued until December.

"This was the most beautiful morning of my life," said Elizabet Segovia, the sister of one trapped miner. "It's hope for the boys. Let them build it and get it working quickly."

Progress on the other two rescue operations was mixed, said Andre Sougarret, an engineer overseeing the drilling. The drill being used in Plan A -- a type usually used in mining operations -- reached a depth of 171 meters (187 yards) Thursday, 40 more meters (about 44 yards) since an update given by officials Wednesday. The Plan B drill, usually used to drill water bore holes, hit a snag at 268 meters (293 yards), Sougarret said, when it struck a reinforcement beam used in the mine's operations.

The men have been trapped for 36 days now, 2,300 feet under the earth. When rescuers first found them, the miners told officials they had survived for more than 17 days by sharing a jar of peaches and small amounts of tuna and mackerel that were in their shelter.

Officials were weighing how to best proceed after the problem with the Plan B drill, but said the drill bit would have to be retrieved and replaced. "It was totally destroyed," Sougarret explained.

The Plan B device -- which had been drilling for less time than Plan A's drill, and had already surpassed its distance -- also had a problem Wednesday with a cable malfunction.

The drill is widening a hole already drilled into the mine. Sougarret said that once it begins drilling again, it could reach its target -- a workshop used by the miners -- within several days. Then a larger drill could be used until the hole is wide enough so that the miners can be hoisted out, one at a time, in a small cage.