9 October 2010
Rescuers have drilled through to the underground chamber where 33 Chilean miners have been trapped since August.
The breakthrough at the San Jose mine came shortly after 0800 local time (1200 GMT), sparking celebrations.
It means efforts to remove the miners through the tunnel should begin within days.
The men were trapped when part of the mine collapsed on 5 August - their 65-day ordeal is the longest suffered by a group of miners caught underground.
They have been living in a shelter 700m (2,300ft) underground. However, the Plan B drill - the second of three which have been working simultaneously - has penetrated 624m to a workshop which can be reached by the miners.
Officials say everything needed for the rescue is now in place.
However, they still need to determine whether the miners can be winched up through the exposed rock, or if they will have to wait for the shaft to be encased with steel piping.
Huge cranes have been brought in to lower the metal casing if it is needed. Tests are expected to take hours, possibly days, and Chile's Mining Minister Laurence Golborne has warned that it will be three to eight days before the rescue mission can begin.
The layers of rock nearest to the surface are crumbly and loose and will definitely need casting.
This is a highly symbolic moment - effectively marking the end of the drilling process. But it's not the end of this ordeal for the miners.
But if the authorities decide not to encase the rescue shaft all the way down to miners, the effort to pull them out could begin within a few days.
Once the tunnel is secured, the rescue team will set up a winch at the top of it and lower a specially designed escape capsule down to the miners, and only then will they be brought up to the surface.
The National Union of Miners wishes the 33 miners a speedy and safe conclusion to their ordeal, and that they are soon returned to their families.
Why shouldn't Kellingley and Thoresby have remained open into 2018?
In a report prepared for the NUM and TUC "Merits of UK Coal State Aid Application" it is argued that rather than close Kellingley and Thorseby in 2015 they could remain open until 2018. Other EU member states have and still are benefiting from the fund whilst making a case for extended funding.
"It can be seen that our European competitors are taking a strategic decision to support their coal industry during managed wind down of uncompetitive coal mines, and are providing substantial sums under European State Aid regulations. As an example, Germany’s closure plans are designed to address the social impact of job losses, and specifically to allow sufficient time to enable direct and indirect supply chains to adjust. To date the UK has made little use of state-aid provisions for the sector, either under the previous regulations or current Closure Aid."
The full report can be read here http://www.num.org.uk/uploads/26/1184.pdf
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