Chile mine rescue effort includes Canadian companies Precision and Atco

At least two Canadian companies have taken part in a dramatic rescue effort underway in the remote Chilean desert, where 33 miners survived underground for more than two months.

CALGARY — At least two Canadian companies have taken part in a dramatic rescue effort underway in the remote Chilean desert, where 33 miners survived underground for more than two months.

Calgary-based oil and gas driller Precision Drilling Corp. (TSX:PD) said Wednesday it was proud of the role its crews played in digging a hole to reach the men, who were trapped 700 metres beneath the Earth’s surface.

“Precision Drilling would like to express its joy and relief that the rescue operations are progressing so well,” the company said on its website, as miners began to emerge one-by-one from a shoulder-width hole in the ground.

“We are delighted the miners are finally able to be reunited with their family members.”

Precision had a drill rig in the country, sitting idle and waiting for work, when part of the San Jose Mine collapsed in August.

The Chilean government approached Precision to see if its rig could bore a hole wide enough and deep enough for the rescue operation. It was one of three firms trying to get at the trapped miners.

In the end, it was another company’s equipment that broke through first, but Precision said it was happy to play a role.

“Precision Drilling is very proud of the efforts and professionalism shown by all the people working on the rescue and in particular the crew of (Precision’s) Rig 421 and is honoured to have been part of the rescue mission,” the company said.

Precision CEO Kevin Neveu and its vice-president of Canadian operations, Rolly Marks, were in Chile on Wednesday to visit the crew of Rig 421.

Two full crews kept the rig working around the clock. Each shift included a rig manager, a driller, a motorhand, two derrickhands, two floorhands, an electrician and a mechanic, as well as an on-site safety manager and engineer.

Another Canadian company, Atco Structures & Logistics (TSX:ACO.X), sent portable buildings to the mine site.

Shortly after the mine collapsed in August, Atco’s South American joint-venture partner, Tecno Fast Atco, asked if there was anything it could do to help, said general manager Louie Guglielmo.

In late September, the company received a call that shelters were needed and put together a plan in fairly short order, Guglielmo said in an interview from Santiago, Chile.

“We had to wait and install it just about three or four days ago because we didn’t know which (rescue) plan was going to be the successful plan,” he said.

The first building serves as a triage centre where rescued miners are checked out by a doctor.

“They sort him out and see if they have to helicopter him out very quickly,” Guglielmo said.

Down a long hallway, there is a room with several beds where the miners can rest and undergo further medical exams. Nearby there are washrooms, showers and a kitchenette. The rooms are well-shaded to allow the newly-freed miners to adjust to the light.

There are also rooms set aside for family visits and the news media. Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, who has been at the scene, has his own room as well.

“It was pretty dramatic watching these guys come out of there,” said Guglielmo.

“Kudos to everybody that was involved, because it was a long shot that they could find these guys, but it happened.”

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