The first three of the rescued San Jose miners were released late Thursday from hospital after routine tests, Chilean media reported.

The three -- Florencio Avalos, Juan Illanes and the Bolivian Carlos Mamani -- were released just 24 hours after the final miner was hoisted above Earth’s crust in the dramatic rescue action.

All 33 miners were mandated to spend time at the regional hospital in Copiapo, not far from the mine, for medical tests to make sure they were healthy after spending 69 days trapped underground.

The three who were released left the hospital in a minibus transport, the newspaper La Tercera reported on its website.

Physicians indicated that the rest could be released by Friday.

The men, who are still wearing special sunglasses to protect their eyes after spending so long in darkness, withstood their isolation in surprisingly good shape, physicians said.

Only one miner was seriously ill, with pneumonia, and treatment had begun before he was hauled up.

Chilean President Sebastian Pinera has pledged better controls to protect miners after the cave in on August 5 buried the men 700 metres deep. Government rescue workers persisted with small test bores to find them, and were rewarded on the 17th day with a note sent back up on a probe: “We’re alive!” The men lost considerable amounts of weight -- one man said in broadcast remarks that he lost 12 kilogrammes in the first 17 days as the men shared limited amounts of canned tuna and milk, a bite every two days.

“I was worried I wouldn’t live to see the birth of my baby,” he said.

But with the opening of the test bore, rescue workers were able to thread down food, water, oxygen, and entertainment to the men.

The historic rescue made its mark with the largest number of miners ever rescued from that depth and after that amount of time.

The Chilean Navy designed and built pioneering equipment to hoist them out.

The rescue costs were between 10 and 20 million dollars, Mr. Pinera said. The San Jose copper mine has been shut down for safety violations, but if it is ever allowed to start up again, the Chilean government intends to go after it for the rescue costs.

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