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Chile Rescues Last of 33 Miners after Two Months Underground
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Oct 14 (Bloomberg) --Chilean miner Jorge Galleguillos upon exiting the Fenix capsule after being brought to the surface. Photographer: Rodrigo Arangua/AFP/Getty Images

Chile completed the rescue of 33 miners trapped half a mile below the Atacama Desert for more than two months, sparking celebrations at the mine site and on city streets throughout the South American country.

Foreman Luis Urzua emerged from the San Jose copper mine at 8:55 p.m. New York time yesterday, the last member of the group hoisted to the surface in a four-meter long capsule. Rescuers hugged each other and sang the national anthem as the miners’ relatives and friends sprayed champagne and confetti.

"You’re not the same after this and neither are we,” President Sebastian Pinera told Urzua in televised remarks. "We will never forget this.”

Urzua, 54, who doled out rations of tuna and water biscuits during the 17 days the miners spent trapped before being discovered alive on Aug. 22, thanked rescuers one by one. "Thank you for everything you’ve done for us,” he told First Lady Cecilia Morel after hugging her.

More than 1 billion people watched the culmination of the two-month rescue live on television networks around the world, state television channel TVN reported. The 70-day rescue beat a previous record set during a 25-day rescue of three coal workers from a flooded mine in Guizhou, China, in 2009.

Firehouse sirens throughout Chile screamed to celebrate the rescue of the 33rd miner. In the city of Copiapo, where most of the rescued miners live, thousands of people cheered, danced and wept in celebration, television images showed. People screamed from their Santiago apartments: "Long live Chile!”

Like Man on Moon

"It’s like when the first man stepped on the moon,” said Darinka Arce, a family friend of 19-year-old rescued miner Jimmy Sanchez.

"Being part of this has been one of the greatest experiences of my life.”

After Urzua’s release, rescue workers who were lowered into the hole to help prepare miners for their ascent to the surface held up a handwritten sign that read, "Mission Accomplished, Chile.” Health minister Jaime Manalich told Pinera that all 33 miners are in good health.

The "Phoenix” capsule painted in the red, white and blue colors of the Chilean flag worked for more than 22 hours hoisting the men to the surface through a 26-inch wide rescue hole.

The rescue cost Chile’s government and Codelco, the state- owned copper producer running the rescue, as much as $20 million, Pinera said in an interview with TVN. BHP Billiton Ltd. and other mining companies, as well as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, assisted in the rescue.


"It’s remarkable,” said J. Davitt McAteer, who was appointed to investigate the causes of a blast at Massey Energy Co.’s Performance Coal operation in Montcoal, West Virginia, that killed 29 people in April. "They’ve done good and been lucky too.”

The first miner, Florencio Avalos, emerged from the mine at 11:12 p.m. New York time Oct. 12 after being trapped for 69 days in a tunnel more than 600 meters (1,970 feet) underground.

The San Jose copper and gold mine is owned by Cia. Minera San Esteban Primera SA.

"This won’t remain unpunished,” Pinera said in televised remarks. "Those who are responsible must assume their responsibility.” 


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