Driller from Denver becomes hero in Chile

Driller from Denver becomes hero in Chile

“You have to feel through your feet what the drill is doing. It’s a vibration you get so that you know what’s happening,” explained Hart, a contractor from Denver, Colorado.

A muscular, taciturn man with callused hands and a sunburned face, Hart normally pounds rock for oil or water. He is used to extreme conditions while he works the hydraulic levers that guide the drills’ hammers. But this was something different — 33 lives were depending on him.

He joked that he thought it was his heart stopping when he felt an unexplained “pop” just before the drill broke through into a chamber far underground. “I didn’t want anything to go wrong.”

Hart was called in from Afghanistan, “simply because he is the best” at drilling larger holes with the T130’s wide-diameter drill bits, Stefanic said.

Standing before the levers, pressure metres and gauges on the T130’s control panel, Hart and the rest of the team faced many challenges in drilling the shaft. At one point, the drill struck a metal support beam in the poorly mapped mine, shattering its hammers.
Fresh equipment had to be flown in from the US and progress was delayed for days as powerful magnets were lowered to pull out the pieces.

The mine’s veins of gold and copper ran through quartzite with a high level of abrasive silica, rock so tough that it took all their expertise to keep the drill’s hammers from curving off in unwanted directions. “It was horrible,” said Centre Rock chief Brandon Fishe.

Miners’ relatives crowded around Hart on Saturday, hugging and posing for pictures with him as he walked down from the rescue operation into the tent camp where families had anxiously followed his work.

“He is become the hero of the day,” said Dayana Olivares, whose friend Carlos Bugueno is one of the miners stuck below.

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