Chilean Mine Rescue – Rescue 33
Center Rock’s Drill used advanced drilling technology to break through to the Chilean Miners trapped 2,070 feet underground at the San Jose mine in Copiapo, Chile.
October 9, 2010 (The San Jose mine in Copiapo, Chile) – The Center Rock drill being used to reach trapped miners more than 2,000 feet underground, often referred to as “Plan B” by the media, has broken through to the miners today, far ahead of the earlier projections that drilling might take until Christmas.
From the Beginning
On August 5, 2010, there was a major mine collapse at the San Jose Mine in the Atacama Desert near Copiapo, Chile. To the world’s disbelief, 17 days later, the 33 miners that signed into the mine that day had all survived the collapse of 700,000 tons of rock and had made their way to a safe room.
Center Rock Inc, Berlin, PA
Back in Pennsylvania, Center Rock Inc, a small company in Berlin, heard that the mine rescue could take until Christmas. Brandon Fisher, President and CEO, and Richard Soppe, Manager of DHD Sales & Product Development, knew that Center Rock’s Technology could help aid in the rescue of the 33 miners, and return them to their families long before the projected date of Christmas. Julie Fisher, Director of Sales, immediately contacted the Southern Alleghenies Planning and Development Commission. This agency helps to connect Pennsylvania manufacturing companies with trade representatives throughout the world in order to grow international trade. There was currently a representative in Chile to help Center Rock make contact with the proper people to present their ideas and technology. Concurrently, one of Center Rock’s distributors, Drillers Supply International, owner Greg Hall, Cypress, Texas, and Drillers Supply S.A., owner Mijali Proestakis, Antofagosta, Chile, reached out to Center Rock about the availability of their tools. Drillers Supply was an integral part in convincing the Chilean officials to accept their plan. Their team virtually eliminated the language barriers. Igor Proestakis, a Field Engineer for Drillers Supply, picked the Center Rock crew up from the airport when they arrived in Chile, dropped them off when they left, and every day in between. Igor, along with Greg and Mijali were on the rescue site the entire time with Center Rock. This was the creation of what the world came to know as “Plan B”.
On September 4, 2010, Brandon Fisher and Richard Soppe arrived at the site of the rescue. Layne Christensen, a Kansas City, Kansas based company, sent in two drillers, Jeff Hart and Matt Staffel, who had been drilling water wells in Afghanistan to support U.S. troops stationed there. Helping the drillers, were two rig hands, Doug Reeves and Jorge Herrera, also working for Layne. About two weeks after the collapse, Layne’s Latin American affiliate Geotec Boyles Bros. brought in a Schramm T130 tophead drill. The initial hole that discovered that the miners were alive, was 5.5″ in diameter. Center Rock would use their DTH (down-the-hole) Drilling technology to open the 5.5″ hole to 12″. This was successful using Center Rock’s CR120 hammer with 12″ x 5.375″ pilot hole opener bit. The next step was to drill a hole big enough for the 22″ x 13′ rescue capsule, the “Phoenix”. Center Rock started drilling with a 28″ LP DRILL, then reduced to a 26″ LP DRILL. This was the drill that would eventually make it “all the way down!” Center Rock’s Low Profile (L.P.) Drill is a pneumatic-based drilling system that in this instance, used four or five hammers instead of just one. Acting like a jackhammer, each hammer steadily pounds the bit to crush the rock as the drill rotates. Originally the idea was that the compressed air would circulate the cuttings upward and away from the bits. Due to the weight of the drill pipe with inner RC tubes, there was concern that this reverse circulation method could not be carried through safely. Center Rock introduced the idea to the Chilean Mining Agency to let the cuttings fall through to the bottom. The proposal was accepted and the miners worked day in and day out to remove the cuttings from that area.
Once the 26″ LP DRILL broke through to the miners on October 9th, Center Rock’s and the entire worlds’ prayers had been answered. Richard Soppe stated, “It was the greatest moment of my life when we broke into that mine ahead of time and knew that those 33 guys were going to come out alive.” Brandon Fisher, agreeing with Richard, said, “I think it was the most amazing feeling that anyone who was out there will feel their entire life.”
In the next few days, the first 40 meters of the rescue shaft was cased to reduce the danger of any falling rock. Center Rock’s now three person crew in Chile, Brandon, Richard, and Julie Fisher, who had flown to Chile two weeks before the break through, came home on Tuesday, October 12th. They watched the rescue unfold with many of their fellow employees at the Berlin, PA office, feeling an enormous sense of pride and teamwork.
The 33 miners were rescued flawlessly, approximately one miner every 25 minutes, beginning late night October 12th and all day on October 13th.
33 Chilean miners, found to be alive in the 33rd week of the year, 33 days of drilling, rescued on 10/13/10, which equals 33 when added together.