Murray & Roberts 'privileged' to be part of Chile mine rescue

South African engineering, contracting and construction services company Murray & Roberts on Wednesday said it was privileged to be part of the Chilean mine-rescue process.

“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,” spokesperson Ed Jardim said.

“The Chilean government has managed the rescue and drilling process exceptionally well and we have been proud to have assisted the government through this process.”

Jardim said even though the hole being used for the rescue was not the one drilled by Murray & Roberts, its staff members were still on site at the San Jose mine to help.

Supporting work crews from different countries had raised their national flags at the mine and the South African flag was also visible, he said.

When the Chilean government first called for help, Murray & Roberts had the first drill on site.

“We were plan A. We shipped the drill [with the South African flag painted on it] to Chile along with some staff,” Jardim said.

Murray & Roberts had an existing operation in Chile with controlling shareholding in two mining contract companies, Terracem and Cementation Sudamerica.

Terracem was a specialist raise drilling company and Cementation Sudamerica focused on major vertical shaft and underground mine infrastructure work, Jardim said.

A large diameter raise drilling machine, the Strata 950, was used by Terracem in the rescue operation.

Rotary Vertical Drilling System technology, co-developed by Murray & Roberts, was also applied to accurately drill a pilot hole to reach the trapped miners.

The Strata 950 had just completed a shaft for Codelco’s Andina mine and was quickly transferred to the San Jose mine where drilling commenced immediately, he said.

Plan B
The miners were now being rescued via the Plan B hole, independent of the Murray & Roberts hole.

The Plan B drill broke through to the miners on Saturday, October 9.

The rescue was started on Wednesday morning, with the first miner surfacing just after 5am South African time.

The 33 miners, 32 Chileans and a Bolivian, were trapped 688m underground for 69 days in the San Jose mine near Copiapo in the north of Chile.

The miners had been trapped since August 5, after the main access tunnel to the mine collapsed.

The Chamber of Mines of South Africa on Wednesday complimented Murray & Roberts for its part in the Chilean mining rescue operation.

The acting chief executive of the chamber, Peter Bunkell, said “while we have been encouraged by the ingenuity of those responsible for the rescue operation, we are delighted today to be able to congratulate their efforts and are also happy that the miners are finally being reunited with their loved ones”.

“Sixty nine days is a very long time underground and such rescue operations are serious technical challenges, which are further complicated by the emotions of the rescuers and those being rescued,” he said.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions and the South African Communist Party on Wednesday also congratulated all those who were involved in the rescue operations from South Africa and the rest of the world.—Sapa


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