So. Ill. mine rescue officials urge Chilean miners to remain calm

By Carly O'Keefe - bio | email

BENTON, IL (KFVS) - Southern Illinois mine rescue officials urge 33 trapped Chilean miners to "remain calm" in spite of news that it may take months to free them from an underground gold and copper mine.

Illinois Department of Natural Resources Mines and Minerals inspector John Smith says while the conditions are certainly not ideal for those miners, they do have everything they need to survive: food, water, and they ability to communicate with the outside world.

"The bright side is they can communicate with their families," Smith said. "That's a big boost knowing you can communicate."

But that may be one of only a few bright spots for 33 Chilean miners trapped 2,300 feet below the surface.

Smith says the average temperature of any underground mine is around 70 degrees. But he says even with air supplied thru a bore hole from the surface, it can get stuffy really quick with 33 warm bodies breathing the air in a confined area.

That's why the toughest hurdle for those Chilean miners may not simply be staying alive, but maintaining their sanity in a tight space.

"They've got everything they need to physically survive this," said Rend Lake College mining instructor David Colombo. "But mentally, it's going to be extremely tough."

As for why it may take so long to get those miners out, Smith says it's likely because copper mines, like the one in Chile, usually have only one way in and one way out. Smith says if it is too unsafe for rescue crews to dig into that one entry way to get them out, they'd have no choice but to drill from the surface down, and that, unfortunately, just takes time.

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