Canadian Mining Sector Plays Important Roles in Chilean Mine Resue Miracle

This article was provided by the Ontario Mining Association (OMA), an organization that was established in 1920 to represent the mining industry of the province.

Other than perhaps the time Neil Armstrong was the first man to set foot on the Moon in 1969 and for recent World Cup football finals no event has attracted as large a television audience as the recent rescue of 33 miners in Chile from the San Jose Mine.  More than one billion people around the world watched the first of the miners brought safely to the surface on October 13 after being trapped almost 700 metres underground for 69 days.  More than 2,000 journalists from around the world were on site in the Atacama Desert to record the unfolding drama.

The global mining industry rallied to meet this challenge and several Canadian mining companies played important roles in the rescue by providing human resources, advanced equipment, services and expertise.  OMA members Cementation Canada, Barrick Gold and Redpath along with Breakwater Resources, Kinross, Finning, Foraco, Precision Drilling, Technofast ATCO and Mining Technologies International were all involved in various aspects of the rescue mission.  Thank you for your part in making sure this story had a happy ending.

We can only share our empathy for the 33 miners and their families and gratitude that they are safe.   However, these circumstances have given mining in general a new profile. You know that through the international media coverage of the Chilean mine rescue on a daily basis that mining has found its way onto the global radar screen when you see children sporting Chilean miner costumes for Hallowe’en. 

While efforts to locate the miners began immediately after the August 5 collapse, it wasn’t until a drill bit returned  to the surface 17 days later with a now famous note attached to the end of the probe  — “We are fine in the refuge, all 33 of us” – that the world learned the miners were alive.

The success of this rescue mission rests on the leadership and management of Chilean authorities and their willingness to use the most advanced technology available.  More than 25 companies from seven different countries made proposals to help.  Canadians take pride in their contributions. 

Three plans (A, B and C) were developed and each involved efforts to reach the miners using different types of drilling equipment and technologies.  It was a coordinated effort that kept numerous options open for the rescue.  While Plan B was the one which reached the refuge station first, Plan A involved Cementation Canada.

Last week, at the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum’s Maintenance Engineering and Mine Operators conference in Sudbury at Laurentian University, Roy Slack, President of Cementation Canada, provided a detailed presentation on the San Jose Mine rescue program.  He did an excellent job relating the details of the entire event and Cementation Canada’s role.  It is a story that will be told many times over, in many languages for many years.

The recent events in Chile provide a strong reminder to everyone about the teamwork and dedicated needed for a strong safety performance in any environment.  On Remembrance Day, we will be reminded the price of peace is eternal vigilance.  Eternal vigilance is also a cornerstone of mine safety.