Miners Rescued!

By ThinkReliability Staff

On October 13, 2010, after almost 70 days spent at 688 meters underground, the 33 miners who were trapped in Chile’s San Jose Mine were brought to the surface in a small rescue capsule. Although the complexity of this rescue mission was unmatched in history, it seemed to go off without a hitch, even allowing the rescue to proceed more quickly than anticipated.

The primary concern throughout the rescue was the miner’s safety. Plans for the rescue focused on ensuring the safest possible environment for the miners – and making adjustments based on the ordeal they’ve been through. For example, there was concern about damage to the miner’s eyes – they haven’t been exposed to natural light for a while. So the miners wore protective eyewear to prevent damage. In addition, medics and rescuers were sent down to the chamber where the miners had been trapped to prepare them for the trip up (in a rescue pod small enough to fit through a 60-cm diameter hole) and evaluate them for medical conditions. After the miners reached the surface, they will receive 48 hours of medical observation by a team of specialists.

The preparations for this undertaking have been extremely methodical and detail. An area near the mine exit was cleared for a helicopter landing – a backup plan in case anything should happen so that the miners would be unable to be transported to the medical facility by road.

Even less-immediate concerns have been considered. The company that owned the mine went bankrupt while the miners were trapped, meaning these brave men returned to the surface jobless. The Chilean government put out a notice, and has received more than a thousand job offers.

One of the biggest concerns is that the miners will suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It’s unclear exactly what exactly is being – or can be – done to reduce the impact, but the Chilean government has consulted with NASA about potential emotional and psychological issues the miners will face.

It seems that the rescuers really tried to think of everything that would make the rescue go smoothly – and the result of this planning showed in the faces of millions who watched the last miner safely pulled from the mine. A big Bravo Zulu out to all involved!

(You can see a timeline of the events starting from the mine collapse and a Cause Map that shows some of the worries the rescuers considered – and planned for – by clicking “Download PDF” above.)