The rescue operation for the 33 miners trapped underground at the San José copper-gold mine, Chile reached a milestone when the 'Phoenix Capsule' reached the mine site on Saturday.
The 420kg cage is expected to haul the trapped miners back to the surface via the 66 cm (26 inches) diameter rescue borehole. The size of the borehole and cage means each miner will have to have a waistline of no more than 90 cm (35 inches) to escape.
The cage has been dubbed the 'Phoenix Capsule' as it will allow the miners to rise up again and live a new life.
The Chilean Mining Minister Laurence Golborne unveiled the capsule. The cage itself is 53 cm (21 inches) wide and has an oxygen supply, lighting, video link, reinforced roof to protect against rock falls, and an escape hatch with safety device to allow the miner to lower himself back down if the capsule becomes stuck. Mr Golborne said that they were taking one step after another but warned that they still had a long way to go.
The cage has been painted in the colours of the Chilean flag in red, white and blue. Individual miners will be brought up in the cage without sedation. The wife of trapped miner Claudio Yanez tried the capsule for size. Cristina Nunez said that she was very happy as Claudio will fit inside perfectly being one of the skinnier ones.
The health minister Jaime Manalich said that a rescue expert and a paramedic would be making the first journey down to make a medical check and decide the order of extraction of the miner based on their physical and mental conditions.
As of 26 September 2010, all three drilling plans are in operation. The Strata 950 is at 445 metres deep, still drilling its pilot hole. The widened shaft being drilled by T130XD is currently 175 metres deep. The RIG-422, the only one which drills shaft wide enough in the first go, is at 62 metres.