By Jorge Medina
COPIAPO, Chile (Reuters) - Chile was looking at
ways Saturday to speed up the rescue of 33 miners trapped
deep underground for 23 days who officials have said might have
to wait three to four months to see the light of day.
Mining Minister Laurence Golborne said rescuers were
considering other options, including digging a second escape
shaft to rescue the miners, who survived over two weeks on
mouthfuls of tinned tuna, cookies and milk.
"Obviously we are looking into other options and we will
welcome any option that speeds up the rescue," Golborne told
reporters at the mine in the rugged mountains of the Atacama
desert near the city of Copiapo.
Officials plan Sunday to start digging a shaft about 2
feet in diameter that would take three months to reach
the trapped miners. They would be lifted up one by one with a
Rescuers said Saturday they were considering drilling a
second shaft closer to the tunnel where the miners are located
that would take about 60 days to reach them.
"We are very happy. Any possibility of bringing them out
sooner is great news," said Cristina Nunez, 26, whose husband,
Claudio, is trapped underground.
The miners were found alive last Sunday after they tied a
note to a drill looking for them 2,300 feet
underground, triggering celebrations across Chile and focusing
world attention on what would be the toughest mining rescue
In a video released this week, bearded miners, some of them
noticeably thin, explained how they organized themselves to
survive in a tiny refuge in the bowels of the mountain.
They said they had areas designated to sleep and play
dominoes as well as a space for water and items like toothpaste
Government officials are worried five of the men have
started to show signs of depression after they did not appear
in a video filmed by the miners.
The government is bringing in NASA experts for tips on how
to help the miners cope with lengthy confinement.
Rescuers have started to lower card games, miniature video
projectors and MP3 players to battle boredom inside the hot and
The San Jose mine accident has put the spotlight on safety
conditions in the world's top copper producer where authorities
have closed at least 30 small mines since the Aug. 5 cave-in.
The government has also promised changes to safety
regulation, although stricter controls and closures of small
mines are unlikely to dent copper output significantly.
(Writing by Alonso Soto; Editing by Peter Cooney)