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Updated: October 6, 2010 02:31 IST

Hopes brighten for miners

Pascale Bonnefoy
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The 33 miners trapped nearly a kilometre underground in northern Chile may be rescued by October 17, weeks before the government's original predictions, President Sebastian Pinera announced in a nationally broadcast radio interview on Monday.

“I hope to rescue them before leaving for Europe,” he said, referring to a trip scheduled for October 17. “It is very important for me to share that moment not only with the 33 miners, with whom I have spoken many times, but also with their families.”

If they are not freed before then, Mr. Pinera is considering postponing his trip to make sure he is at the gold and copper mine where the men are trapped on the day of the rescue.

“Obviously, the trip will be adjusted to the rescue,” he said.

The government is evaluating whether to fortify the shaft through which the miners will be lifted in a capsule that is already on location, said Mining Minister Laurence Golborne. Not casing the shaft would save several extra days of work.

When the men were first discovered to be alive in August, having survived a cave-in, the government said it could take more than three months to rescue them but vowed to get them out before Christmas.

That timeline has been steadily compressed, and last week Mr. Golborne said the rescue would most likely take place during the latter half of October.

The 33 miners, who as of Tuesday have been underground for 60 days, have been working in shifts around the clock to remove the earth and rocks that fall as a drill widens the narrow shaft through which rescue workers first made contact with them on Auguat 22.

Health treatment units, where the miners will be immediately taken after the rescue, are being assembled at the site. — New York Times News Service

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