Thirty-three miners trapped in the small underground San José copper-gold mine near Copiapo in north-central Chile on August 5, 2010, were discovered to be alive and in reasonably good health in the mine’s refuge chamber on August 22 when a 15-cm drill hole from surface broke through to the chamber.

A note returned to surface by the miners read, “Estamos bien in el refugio los 33.”

The refuge chamber is 688 m below surface. The mine is owned by a private company, Cia. Minera San Esteban Primera.

Codelco, Chile’s national copper company, was moving a large rig to the mine site to drill a rescue shaft to the refuge chamber. The drilling effort was expected to take three to four months. Meanwhile, workers on the surface were preparing to keep the miners supplied with food, water, medicine and communications while the rescue effort is ongoing.

The Associated Press reported, “Authorities and relatives of the miners hugged, climbed a nearby hill, planted 33 flags and sang Chile’s national anthem after discovering the miners had survived. Along the length of Chile, horns honked, flags waved and people watched the drama unfold live on television and computer screens.”