14 October 2010
The South African government has congratulated the Chilean authorities following the successful rescue of 33 miners trapped underground for 69 days – and commended South African engineering and construction company Murray & Roberts (M&R) for its role in the dramatic rescue.
The last of the 33 Chilean miners, 54-year-old shift foreman Luis Urzua, was rescued on Wednesday night after being entombed underground since 5 August.
The 33 miners were lifted one by one in a capsule to the surface, after enduring 69 days in a hot, humid shelter some 700 metres underground. No one in history has been trapped so deep underground for so long and survived.
“We rejoice, along with the rest of the world, on the successful rescuing of the miners,” South African President Jacob Zuma said in a statement on Wednesday. “Having a strong mining culture like Chile, we can fully empathise with the fears and anxieties of those that have suffered this terrifying experience.”
South African government spokesperson Themba Maseko said the resilience of the miners “and the unwavering commitment, resilience and perseverance of all involved in the rescue effort deserves praise from everyone around the world.”
National flags were raised at the San Jose mine by rescue crews from various countries, and the South African flag was among them, thanks to Murray & Roberts.
Maseko made special mention of the company, which, according to the South African Press Association (Sapa), was first to get a drill to the site above the entombed miners when the Chilean government appealed for help. The company’s large diameter raise drilling machine was one of three drills used in the intensive rescue effort.
While the shaft drilled by Murray & Roberts was not the one used for the rescue, the company’s staff were on site at the San Jose mine throughout to help, Sapa reports.
“We are very privileged to have been a part of this process, and it’s a feather in our cap as South Africans as leaders in underground mining,” Murray & Roberts spokesman Ed Jardim told Sapa, adding that the Chilean government had managed the rescue and drilling process “exceptionally well”.