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ATCO Structures provides modular units for Chilean miners’ rescue

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by Richard Gilbert

Calgary-based ATCO Structures & Logistics provided 33 modular units to be used at the site where 33 miners were recently rescued after surviving underground for 69 days.

Calgary-based ATCO Structures & Logistics provided 33 modular units to be used at the site where 33 miners were recently rescued after surviving underground for 69 days.

“We recognized the need for structural support and immediately responded,” said Louie Guglielmo, general manager with Tecno Fast ATCO, the Canadian company’s local joint-venture partner.

“I am proud that ATCO can be part of such an incredible operation.”

The units were shipped from a plant in Santiago on Oct 1.

Installation was completed on Oct. 12, after rescue planners determined where to place the units.

Some of the modular units were used as a “dark area” to protect the rescued miners from the light, while other units were used for first aid. Additional units are being used as an area where the miners can visit with their families.

A 365-metre rescue shaft broke through to the miners trapped half a mile under Chile’s Atacama desert on Oct 9.

As the rescue effort entered its final phase, a camera was run down the shaft to determine the condition of the well.

Rescue workers decided to case as much as 96 meters (315 feet) of the 620-meter rescue well to ensure miners wouldn’t get trapped as they exited the mine.

They started casing the well that evening and began extracting the miners four days later. Workers on the surface rehearsed plans to extract the miners and transport them to a nearby hospital, as engineers prepared the rescue shaft.

The miners were trapped on Aug. 5 after an access tunnel caved in at Cia. Minera San Esteban Primera SA’s San Jose copper and gold mine in the Atacama region.

The 33 men were trapped underground for 69 days, after 700,000 tons of rock collapsed around them. For the first 17 days, no one even knew whether or not they were alive.

Chilean state-run Codelco, BHP Billiton Ltd. and other mining companies assisted in the rescue.

The mining industry in Chile accounts for more than 15 per cent of country’s Gross Domestic Product in 2009, which was about US$26.9 billion.

Mining also provides about 40 per cent of the government’s revenue.

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