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Chile to start freeing miners on Tuesday night

posted 12 Oct 2010, 02:55 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 12 Oct 2010, 02:57 ]

Mining Minister says first test of "Phoenix" capsules successful and that everything is a go for the imminent rescue of 33 miners trapped 2300 feet (700 meters) underground since an August 5 cave-in.

Chile's mining minister said on Monday (October 11) that rescue workers have conducted a trial run and were taking final steps to be able to start hoisting the 33 trapped men out of a mine shaft as early as midnight on Tuesday.

Trapped 2300 feet (700 meters) underground since an August 5 cave-in, the men have captured the world's attention with their ongoing struggle for survival.

One by one, the men will be raised in special capsules developed by the Chilean navy, winched up through a hole nearly 2050-feet (625-meters) long and not much wider than a man's shoulders.

"This test has been very successful. We set some TV cameras inside the Phoenix we could we would watch how the hole behaved during the process of movement of the cage and we could see that there was no stones, neither dust that was liberated during this process," said Minister Laurence Golborne at the daily news briefing which is now full to overflowing with media who have gathered from around the globe to witness the rescue.

"We are pretty sure that the cage will behave properly as has been designed during the rescue process," he stated.

As relatives wait anxiously and journalists swarm the mine in the Atacama desert of northern Chile, Mining Minister Laurence Golborne explained the various stages of assessing the medical condition of each of the trapped miners after they are pulled from the narrow hole.

Officials, worried about panic attacks, will bring up those who are physically and mentally strongest first to see how the men react to the claustrophobic journey.

"If there is any problem that justifies if we will send them immediately to the hospital in Copiapo," said Golborne.

"If there is no problem like that, they will be sent to a different stage where their going to have an stabilization for one or two hours and after that if the doctor says that it's proper they are going to be sent to an encounter zone where they can be in touch with a couple of relatives close relatives, two or three of them nominated by them during the day, today, so, they're going to have their first encounter with their beloved ones."

Golborne added the it was the families at the epicenter of the activity who mattered the most.

"They are the real actors in this process. They have been suffering all this time," he said. "Our role with all the team that has been working on this process has tried to give to this rescue process all the elements that are needed to conduct it properly."

Reports say the miners are in remarkably good health, although some have developed skin infections.

The government has brought in experts from the NASA space agency to help the men keep physically and mentally fit during the ordeal, which has gripped the world and drawn messages of support from Pope Benedict and World Cup soccer stars.