Rescuers within centimetres of trapped Oz miners

Rescuers battling to reach two Australian miners entombed in a collapsed gold mine said they were directly beneath the men late on Monday, with as little as 30cm of hard rock left to cut.

Brant Webb (37) and Todd Russell (34) spread grout over loose rocks beneath their cage to prevent fresh rock falls when miners tunneling toward them from below finally break through, mine manager Matthew Gill said.

The two men have been lodged in a steel cage beneath tons of fallen rocks since April 25 and were found alive more than a week ago—nearly a week after an earthquake caused a cave-in that trapped them and killed one of their colleagues.

Since then, frantic efforts to rescue them from Beaconsfield Gold Mine in Australia’s Tasmania state have captivated the nation.

Union official Bill Shorten said miners had drilled narrow probes up into the cavity where Webb and Russell have survived for more than 300 hours, but he cautioned they would probably not be freed before morning.

“The crust is not as thick as expected,” he told reporters, adding the bulk of the remaining 1m barrier was made up of smaller rocks and debris known as fill. “For once we’ve had a break our way; it’s some long-overdue good news,” he said.—Sapa-AP

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