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Chilean and Pennsylvania Mine Incidents; Something Special in Common

Updated on September 3, 2013

(Left): My wife, Clara, who is from Chile, gives a thumbs-up for the miners through our front window, while displaying the Chilean Flag. (Right): A miner greets Chilean President Sebastian Pinera shortly after being brought up in a capsule. (Photo taken off my TV screen while watching a broadcast on the Hispanic network Univision.)

On July 24, 2002 in Pennsylvania, a mining accident occurred, trapping nine miners.1 On August 5, 2010 in Chile, another potential tragedy hit, marooning 33 miners a half mile below the surface.2 In each case, all miners were rescued using capsules. Also, in each case, there was reported to be an extra person with them.

The Pennsylvania Accident

The accident in 2002 happened ten miles away from the Flight 93 crash site of 9-11, at the Quecreek Mine in Lincoln Township, Somerset County, Pennsylvania. Workers – at 240 feet below ground – accidentally dug into a neighboring abandoned mine. The abandoned mine was full of water, and this caused flooding which threatened to drown the miners.The miners had used an outdated map, which made them think the other mine was 300 feet away.3

A 6.5-inch ventilation hole for the trapped miners began at 2:05 the next morning and was bored through 240 feet of rock. Also, the pumping of water began immediately to keep the water from drowning the miners. They pumped all mines in the area, and nearby water wells. For the rescue capsule, a 30-inch hole was began late Thursday the 25th. At a depth of 105 feet, the drill bit broke, and a piece of the bit remained in the hole. A special tool needed to be manufactured in order to retrieve that piece. The nation, the world and the rescue operation all waited anxiously while a search for a machine shop was underway, and while they looked for a new bit. A machine shop in Big Run, Jefferson County was chosen for the bit recovery tool. What normally would have taken a few days to build, took around three hours due to the help of many responsible workers at the shop. A helicopter flew in the tool, and the bit piece was retrieved from the hole at about 4:09 pm Friday.

A new 30-inch bit from West Virginia arrived at 7:00 pm, but the bit would not fit into the hole. More time passed for another decision: the hole had to be enlarged from the surface. Later on the bit broke again,and a decision was made to drill a 26-inch hole, since there was a bit availabe seven miles away. The smaller drill was installed and drilling resumed at 6:30 am Saturday. Other precautions and problems had to be taken and solved, causing more delays. But around 10 pm they broke through to the trapped miners. The rescue capsule was lowered into the hole, and by 2:45 am Sunday, the miners were all safe on the surface.

Soon after the incident, an interview with Rev. John Beyers of the Grace United Methodist Church was conducted by Carol Lin, a CNN anchor,on Aug. 4, 2002:

LIN: Why do you think they decided to hold this service a week after the rescue operations?

BEYERS: I really think this whole community got involved in this rescue effort and they feel so profoundly moved. I mean, I couldn't speak when the governor announced that all nine were found, and found alive. And I think there's - within the human spirit - an enormous sense of gratitude for God's goodness and a desire to say thank you, a desire to gather together, a desire to share with one another that their lives have been touched by a miracle of God.

LIN: And so much symbolism here. There are going to be 10 hard hats presented on the table, symbolizing the nine miners and their God, the tenth hat being God, and a lighting of the candles, which I believe two of the miners might be participating in today's service.

BEYERS: That's right. And the tin hat idea is a wonderful allusion to the Old Testament book of Daniel when Daniel was in the lion's den and there was the presence of a fourth person there. and I think that that's a wonderful allusion that they were not alone. 240 feet down, 55 degree water, no matter where we are, God's with us.

There are several illustrated accounts of this incident, one of them being Miracle at Dormel Farms 4 by Bill and Lori Arnold.

A clock showing a famous hillside lift near the beach of Valparaiso, Chile, made with copper most likely from the mine featured here (there are other mines in Chile that produce copper). Much of the Chilean copper is used to make Chilean souvenirs. Inset: Souvenir from Chile: A rock from a copper mine with miniature copper mining tools and hard hat.

The Chilean Accident

On August 5, 2010, a 700,000-ton piece of granite caved in at the San Jose copper and gold mine in the Atacama Desert in Northern Chile, trapping 33 miners a half mile below the ground for a world record of 70 days. By the time the rescue was complete, an estimated 1 billion viewers around the world had watched that rescue in Chile by way of TV, or the internet. The rescue operation, interestingly, was patterned after the 2002 rescue I mentioned above.

Meanwhile - just after the collapse - in order to know the conditions below - or the fate of the miners - eight exploratory holes were drilled, some of them missing their mark. On the 7th of August another collapse worried the officials. Fourteen days after the first collapse, one drill bit broke through a tunnel, but on investigation no life was found in there. It appeared that hopes for life were quite dim by now.

Another clock made with copper from Chilean mines. This clock depicts Chilean “huasos,” their version of cowboys. They are wearing traditional huaso clothing. The men are demonstrating their skills in herding bulls. There is no bullfighting in Chile.

Seventeen days after the accident, upon lifting one of the drill bits out of its hole, a note was found taped to it. It read in bold red letters, “Estamos bien en el refugio, los 33.” The English translation: “We are okay in the shelter, all 33.” To everyone’s relief and surprise, all the miners had survived much longer than anyone had expected. After the collapse, the foreman had immediately begun food rationing. The emergency supplies that were intended to last about three days carried them to two full weeks, and it ran out just before they were discovered on Day 17. The men had lost an average of 18 pounds by that time.

Jimmy Sanchez wrote on a note while still trapped, “There are actually 34 of us, because God has never left us down here."5

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, a miner like his father and grandfather, called it "a rare blessing when the earth gives back up those that it has trapped."

Here is a clip from Univision's recording of the first miner rescued. Notice the dark glasses. These were sent down the rescue tube to help each miner adjust to the brightness of the outside world, as they were in darkness during the many days of their ordeal.

The First Miner is Rescued

I would now like to make reference to two other well-known emergency situations in which the victims thereof survived:

A long time ago in a kingdom far, far away, the king built a golden image and commanded all to worship it. Three men refused to do that, so the king had the three men thrown into a fiery furnace. Soon, the king looked into the furnace and asked his counsellors, “Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?”

They answered and said unto the king, “True, O king.”

He answered and said, “Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.”6

Later on, another man was cast into a den of lions for rebellion against what he thought was an evil practice. He bonded with the lions (according to this writer) and emerged the next morning with the announcement that an angel of God had closed the mouths of the lions.7

The common thread running through these four stories is that the men felt or saw the presence of an angel, or of some type of deity. Those who grew up in Christianity saw or felt a person they thought was Jesus. Those who were Muslims or of another religion probably saw a figure familiar to them. Some, if not all, who descended into the threatening situation as atheists or semi-believers emerged as believers to some degree. The kings in the last two stories ended up believing in the gods of those who were delivered from harm.

Those who are not Christian may not believe the Old Testament stories I told, but I used them due to my familiarity with the Bible. Other religious canons that are not Christian or Muslim will probably have similar accounts. The important thing is to realize that there most likely exists a supporting system of unseen beings who watch over us. This is treated quite thoroughly in my hub about the so-called suffering of innocent people.

If God or angels attend us who survive such challenges and dangers, how much more will they help those who are doomed to die? There are countless stories of such from those who have had near-death experiences, and who have been in grave danger. Some of them are from my own experiences, and some are found in my writings here on HubPages. One of them shows that death is actually a beautiful experience, though it may look terrible from the outside. Suffering comes with comfort, and if not, with lessons learned and sorely needed. We need not fear adversity, as Paul has taught us in 2 Cor. 12:5-10 (see also: Hosea 5:15 and Acts 14:22). Again, I’m using biblical scriptures to illustrate my point. This type of philosophy exists in other religions, and even in the secular world.Talk to people around you whom you trust. Get them to talk about their dark times or dangerous experiences. Sooner or later, you’ll find stories that support the ideas I’m putting out here.




3. Eula Holmes and Paul Sherman of the World Socialist Website


5. Rev. Alfredo Cooper, chaplain to President Sebastian Pinera, as told to Peter Allen of BBC Radio Five Live

6. Daniel 3:1-30

7. Daniel 6:1-28

Videos of Chilean Rescue:


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