A Happy Ending: Trapped Australian Miners Rescued
Brant Webb, 37, and Todd Russell, 34, were freed from the mine's main lift shaft. They walked out smiling, seemingly in good spirits, and were reported to be in good health.
Webb and Russell were buried after a small earthquake April 25 trapped the safety cage they were working in under tons of rock in the Beaconsfield Gold Mine, Tasmania. Miner Larry Knight, 44, was killed in the cave-in. Webb and Russell survived because a huge slab of rock landed on their 16-square-foot cage, forming a protective layer that kept them from being crushed. For five days, they lived on a single cereal bar and water they licked from rocks, until rescue crews with heat sensors detected them April 30.
For 300 hours, the two miners had huddled in the kennel-sized cage. Food and fresh water had been delivered to the men through a small plastic pipe, along with clothes and other items.
Digging a 48-foot-long horizontal rescue tunnel towards Webb and Russell had been painstakingly slow, as miners had to grind through rock five times harder than concrete. A raise bore machine was used to drill through solid rock in a lateral tunnel. Hard-rock miners got through more than 45 feet of rock with the giant drilling machine, but cutting the final sections of the escape tunnel had to be done with diamond-tipped hand tools to avoid a cave-in. Webb and Russell also spread grout beneath their wire cage to stabilize the ground and minimize the chances of a rock fall when they were reached.
The final drilling took longer than expected, as rescuers could only work one at a time on their backs in a cramped tunnel.