Chilean rescue workers are making final preparations for the release of 33 miners trapped more than 600 meters (1,970 feet) underground for two months.
Officials plan to start the rescue operation after 5 p.m. New York time, Mining Minister Laurence Golborne told reporters at the site. Rescuers hope to bring at least one of the trapped miners to the surface today after a drill reached the tunnels that have been their home since Aug. 5, he said.
“What began as a possible tragedy, we hope -- and thank God -- seems to be ending as a true blessing,” Chilean President Sebastian Pinera told reporters yesterday in Quito after meeting his Ecuadorean counterpart.
Rescuers completed practice runs yesterday in which they rehearsed the extraction and transportation of the miners to a nearby hospital, Health Minister Jaime Manalich said. Medical workers are focused on ensuring that the miners are prepared to rise to the surface in a process that could prove physically and emotionally stressful, he told reporters.
Four rescue workers will travel down the well to assist from the underground tunnels, remaining until after the last miner has resurfaced, Manalich said.
The miners will be split into three groups for the rescue. The first will provide information to rescuers and possibly help with the operation, the health minister said. The weakest will then come out, followed by the rest. Golborne today declined to name the first miner who will be rescued.
Rich in Minerals
The 33 men, who are eating meals rich in minerals and protein to prevent nausea and stabilize blood pressure during the ascent, are being examined remotely by medical officials on the surface. Ten have been identified by authorities as being the most in need of special care, Manalich said.
They’ll wear elastic bands on their lower extremities and a waistband during the 15- to 20-minute ascent that will help ensure proper blood circulation and prevent a reduction in arterial pressure and possible fainting, the health minister said. Rescue workers will supply the miners with emergency oxygen in case dust on the ascent causes breathing problems.
The miners want to wait until all 33 are brought to the surface so they can travel to the hospital as a group, the health minister said today. Authorities are instead seeking to fly miners to hospital as soon as possible so they can undergo examinations and any necessary treatment, Manalich said.
Longest Mine Rescue
Chilean state-run Codelco, BHP Billiton Ltd. and other mining companies, as well as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, have assisted in what has become the world’s longest-ever mine rescue.
“Codelco has been playing a very important role,” Chief Executive Officer Diego Hernandez said in an interview today from London. “It’s very important for the mining industry and for the country of course to have a safe rescue.”
The 33 men will face more than 1,000 media representatives when they reach the surface. Family members camping out in the Atacama desert have obtained lawyers and received book and film offers, said Arnoldo Plaza Vega, 46, whose cousin is among the men trapped inside the mine.
Chile’s government gave the men media training, conducting classes over phone lines threaded through drill holes almost half a mile underground.
“It’s hard to grasp how strange it is to come out of a black hole in the ground for weeks or months into this sort of media frenzy,” said Jeff Goodell, whose book about nine Pennsylvania miners trapped for 77 hours was a New York Times bestseller. “The shock of coming into this media spotlight is almost bigger than the shock of being trapped underground.”
Already, the men have been invited to make appearances in Spain, England and Greece, and mining entrepreneur Leonardo Farkas appeared on Chilean television promising each of the miners 5 million pesos ($10,400). Their net annual wages range from 3.8 million pesos to 9 million pesos, said Darinka Darce, a friend of trapped miner Jimmy Sanchez’s family.
The television rights to the miners’ story could be worth as much as $10,000 upfront and $50,000 to $100,000 at the time of production, said Scott Manville, founder of TVFilmRights.com, an online marketplace for buying and selling the rights to real- life stories. The movie rights could eventually come with a “purchase price” of $100,000 to $500,000, Manville said in an e-mailed response to questions.
Some families are in talks for exclusive rights to post-rescue interviews, Plaza said.
“I’ve heard of some offers for around $20,000 for the first television interview,” he said.
The miners reached a verbal agreement as a group about what they will reveal to the public about their experiences and what will remain private, Plaza said. They plan to legalize the agreement before a notary, he said.
“They are a unified group,” he said. “They were together for two months below and they’ll be together afterward. They will stick together.”