Image: Laurence Golborne, Jimena Matas
Luis Hidalgo  /  AP
Chile's Mining Minister Laurence Golborne, second from left, accompanied by the head of the government of the Chilean region of Atacama, Jimena Matas, left, displays supplies to be sent to trapped miners in the collapsed San Jose mine in Copiapo, Chile, on Saturday.
By
updated 8/29/2010 8:16:14 PM ET 2010-08-30T00:16:14

A new video released Sunday of 33 men trapped in a mine under Chile's Atacama Desert shows them sending greetings to their families, talking about how they are doing better since receiving food and breaking into tears as they talk about loved ones.

In the video, the men are shirtless because of the heat in the mine and wearing what look like white surgical pants, special clothing sent down to help keep them dry.

Most are upbeat, expressing gratitude to their families and the rescuers for the support they are receiving via handwritten notes sent to them through three small bore holes. Authorities also send food, water, medicine and other goods to them through the three holes.

But when it comes time to speak about their wives and children, many of the men break down.

"I'm sending my greetings to Angelica. I love you so much, darling," said 30-year-old Osman Araya, as his voice chokes and he begins to cry. "Tell my mother, I love you guys so much. I'll never leave you, I will fight to the end to be with you."

Araya and 32 fellow miners were trapped by the Aug. 5 collapse of the main shaft of the San Jose gold and silver mine in northern Chile. They only gained contact with the outside after 17 days — during which they rationed 48-hours worth of food and dug for water in the ground. On Monday, the men will equal a mark set by three miners who survived 25 days trapped in a flooded mine in southern China last year. Few other rescues have taken more than two weeks.

Shy on camera
One miner explains to the family of 28-year-old Ariel Ticona that he didn't want to appear on camera — apparently because he is shy — but that he was sending his love to them and that, according to an unidentified speaker, he "is super happy and he is super, super, super well!"

This video, in contrast to the first 45-minute video released by the government on Thursday, shows little of the men's surroundings. Instead, it appears meant as a video postcard for loved ones, as each of the 12 men who speak to the camera are given about 30 seconds to talk.

At one point, the camera pans to a larger group of men, and several animated, joking voices can be heard throughout the tape.

One unidentified man, who squints in the light shone on his face as do most of the miners, said he is thankful "for all your efforts out there."

One man shown says he is doing much better because of the food and water the miners have received.

Throughout the interviews, as the men start to choke up when speaking about their families, a voice behind the camera urges them on. "Let's go, let's go! You can do it!" the unidentified man said.

Miners must move tons of rock
Earlier Sunday, the engineer in charge of drilling at the site said the trapped miners would have to aid their own escape — clearing thousands of tons of rock that will fall as the rescue hole is drilled.

After drilling three small bore holes in recent weeks to create lines of communication with the miners and deliver basic food and medicine, Chile's state-owned Codelco mining company will begin boring a rescue hole Monday afternoon that will be wide enough to pull the men up through 2,300 feet (700 meters) of earth.

The first step will be to drill a "pilot hole" similar in size to the other three. Then much larger machine cutters will slowly grind through that hole, forcing crushed rock to fall down into the mine shaft area near the trapped men.

Failure to keep the bottom clear of debris could quickly plug the hole, delaying a rescue that officials say could take three to four months.

"The miners are going to have to take out all that material as it falls," Andres Sougarret, Codelco's head engineer on the operation, told The Associated Press in a phone interview.

In all, the trapped miners will have to clear between 3,000 and 4,000 tons of rock, work that will require crews of about a half-dozen men working in shifts 24 hours a day.

The men have basic clearing equipment, such as wheel barrows and industrial-sized battery-powered sweepers, Sougarret said. The hole will likely end up several hundred yards (meters) from their living area in the mine's shelter, giving the men room to maneuver and store the rocks, he added.

Sougarret declined to estimate how long the work would take, saying it would depend on how each step went.

Months long rescue estimate
Once drilling begins, the team will have to decide whether to fit the wider hole with metal casing, often used to seal a hole and prevent collapses in the walls.

"We may not have to use it in this case because the rock is really high quality, really strong," he said.

On Sunday, Mining Minister Laurence Golborne, reiterated the government's estimate of three to four months to rescue the men, rejecting local reports citing engineers who said it could be done in much less time.

Golborne, wearing a hard hat and standing in front of the bore hole where rescuers first made contact with the men, said that experts had analyzed 10 different methods to get the men out, will continue to study other options, but that "nothing has yet been found that will be quicker."

While it's unclear if the government is simply trying to under-promise and then over-deliver, there is widespread agreement that the major drilling operation is unlikely to endanger the miners.

"If the area where the miners are didn't get crushed in the initial collapse, drilling this new hole isn't going to do that," Walter Veliz Araya, the geologist who was in charge of drilling the three bore holes, told the AP.

Mario Medina Mejia, a Chilean mining engineer not involved in the operation, agrees.

"The question isn't whether they can safely get to the miners," Mejia said. "It's how long can the miners wait for them to arrive?"

Normally, after completing a pilot hole, the opening is enlarged by drilling from the bottom up. The drill, hanging at the bottom of the pilot hole, is reached through existing shafts in a mine and then fitted with the machine cutters, which then blast through rock as they are raised.

In this case, however, there is no way to get those large cutters to the bottom of the mine; if there was a hole large enough to reach it, the men would already have been rescued.

Araya said that knowledge gained drilling the initial holes, which are between 20 and 100 yards (meters) from the shelter, would give the team digging the rescue hole a head start. For example, while penetrating rock, the circular motion of the bits causes the drill to veer right. In this case, the especially hard rock exaggerates that, making constant correction necessary, he said.

From the moment the mine collapsed Aug. 5, the trapped men have had a central role in keeping themselves alive — getting to the safety chamber, rationing food and keeping order with extraordinary discipline.

In video footage released by the government late Thursday, one of the miners says proudly that they will be helping with the operation, a sign that authorities have already prepared them.

Still, many questions remain. What physical and mental condition will the men be in when they are called on to help save themselves?

"We will keep them alive, in good shape and health," said Golborne. "That is something that is happening in parallel while we are digging the larger hole."

Physically, many of the men have severe skin irritations from the hot, wet conditions underground and were sent special clothing that dries quicker and also small mats to sleep on so they don't have to rest directly on the damp ground.

One of the miners, Johny Barrios, has some medical training and on Saturday vaccinated himself and his fellow miners against tetanus and diphtheria, health official Raul Martinez told the El Mercurio newspaper — another effort to keep the miners fit.

For now, the men have some time to prepare before they start the arduous task of hauling away the rock that stands between them and freedom, but questions remain.

Sougarret, the operation leader, said it will be one to two months before large quantities of rocks start falling. Can the men do such hard labor for a couple months just on food that will fit down the narrow tubes? And then there is what will be a harrowing rescue: each man will be pulled up through the 26-inch (66-centimeter) hole in a tube, a ride that will take about an hour each.

Psychologists have been called in to help the men cope, and families that watched footage from the mine shelter said the men had lost a lot of weight.

Alberto Segovia said his brother, who is trapped in the mine, had already lost more than 15 pounds.

"He looked sad," Segovia said, reflected a bit, and then added that his brother also "looked determined to survive."

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Gallery: Miner profiles, first moments of freedom

Read about each of the 33 miners as they are rescued.

Photos: Chilean mine collapse

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  1. Carlos Galleguillos and Tabita Galleguillos, relatives of trapped miner Jorge Galleguillos, wait for news outside the San Jose Mine near Copiapo, Chile, on Monday, Oct. 11. The engineer leading Chilean rescue efforts, Andres Sougarett, said Monday his team successfully tested a rescue capsule nearly all the way down to where 33 miners are trapped. (Natacha Pisarenko / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Drill operators Jeff Hart, left, and James Staffel, both U.S. citizens, wave as the drill that made the hole reaching the miners is transported away from the mine on Monday. (Jorge Saenz / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Surrounded by media crews, onlookers and mine staff, the main rescue drill leaves the mine on Monday. (Ariel Marinkovic / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Rescuers test a capsule similiar to the one that will be used to recover the trapped miners at the San Jose mine near Copiapo, Chile, on Sunday, Oct. 10. (Hugo Infante / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. A relative of one of the miners is hugged by a policeman after the drilling machine completed an escape hole at the mine on Oct. 9. (Ivan Alvarado / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Workers of the T-130 drill celebrate in the arid Atacama desert on Oct. 9. The crew drilling with the T-130 drill, part of an effort dubbed "Plan B" - one of three shafts attempting to reach 33 miners trapped deep underground - finally made contact with the miners' shelter. (Francesco Degasperi / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. A clown named Rolly shows a flag that was sent by the 33 trapped miners as a gift at the camp where relatives wait for news outside the San Jose mine in Copiapo, Chile, on Wednesday, Oct. 6. The words on the flag read in Spanish, "A souvenir for clown Rolly, from the San Jose mine, thanks for making our children laugh." Thirty-three miners have been trapped deep underground in the copper and gold mine since it collapsed on Aug. 5. (Natacha Pisarenko / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. A helmet sits on a rock covered with the names of the 33 miners trapped in the collapsed San Jose mine. (Natacha Pisarenko / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Aurelia Navarro, a volunteer missionary, prays on Oct. 5 during a small ceremony marking the 60 days since miners became trapped. (Dario Lopez-mills / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. A relative of one of the trapped miners writes a message on a Chilean national flag on Oct. 4. (Martin Bernetti / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A team tests a possible rescue capsule designed by the Chilean Army's Shipyards on Sept. 30. (Ariel Marinkovic / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Workers on Sept. 30 test a capsule that will be used to rescue trapped miners. (Chile's Presidency via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. A worker checks part of a drill pulled from Rigg 421 on Sept. 24 at the San Jose mine near Copiapo, Chile, where 33 miners remain trapped. (Ivan Alvarado / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Children play Oct. 2 as a worker hangs a sign identifying a module to be used as school room for relatives of the trapped Chilean miners trapped. Many of the families of the miners are living in what is called "Camp Esperanza" or "Camp Hope." (Ariel Marinkovic / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Relatives of the trapped miners watch a video of them at the San Jose mine on Saturday, Sept. 18. (Aliosha Marquez A / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. A crane lifts a capsule that will be used as part of rescue operation for the miners at the San Jose copper and gold mine on Saturday, Sept. 25. (Ivan Alvarado / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Nelly Bugueno, mother of trapped miner Victor Zamora, checks her cell phone as she walks past the tents where families of the 33 trapped miners are living as they await rescue on Friday. (Stringer/chile / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Jesica Cortez, wife of Victor Zamora, one of the 33 miners trapped down in the shaft, rejoices as she reads a letter from her husband, at San Jose mine, near Copiapo, 800 km north of Santiago, on Wednesday, Sept. 18. (Martin Bernetti / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Relatives of trapped miners Claudio Yanez and Dario Segovia write a message to them with painted stones outside the San Jose mine in Copiapo, Chile, Thursday, Sept. 23. (Photographer: Aliosha Marquez A / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Members of a folkloric ballet perform at the camp where relatives of trapped miners wait for news outside the San Jose mine in Copiapo, Chile, Wednesday Sept. 1. Thirty-three miners have been trapped alive deep underground in the copper and gold mine since it collapsed on Aug. 5. (Roberto Candia / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. A composite image captured from a video on Tuesday, Sept. 1 shows four of 33 trapped miners waving at mine San Jose, near of Copiapo, Chile. (Codelco / Handout / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. A sample of what it will be the first hot meal the miners still trapped in the San Jose Mine will have since the accident, Tuesday, Sept. 1 near Copiapo, Chile. (Ariel Marinkovic / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Evangelic Minister Javier Soto dedicates one of the 33 mini-bibles that will be given to the miners trapped in the San Jose mine, Monday. (Ariel Marinkovic / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. View of 33 Chilean national flags placed outside the San Jose mine by the relatives of the 33 trapped miners in Copiapo, 800 km north of Santiago on Monday. (Ariel Marinkovic / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. A worker checks the drill machine digging an escape hole for the 33 miners trapped underground in a copper and gold mine at Copiapo, north of Santiago, Chile, on Monday, Aug. 30. (Ivan Alvarado / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Work to rescue the trapped miners continues on Aug. 30 at the mine, which is located 450 miles north of Santiago. (Ivan Alvarado / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Samuel Avalo, left, and his wife Herminda Acuna, parents of Samuel Avalo Acuna, one of the trapped miners, sit outside the San Jose mine in Copiapo, on Aug. 30. (Roberto Candia / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Relatives of miners carry candles during a vigil outside the mine on Sunday, Aug. 29. (Roberto Candia / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Trapped miners wave at a camera from underground on Aug. 29. (Ivan Alvarado / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Chilean pianist Roberto Bravo performs during a show for the relatives of the trapped miners in Copiapo on Aug. 29. (Ariel Marinkovic / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. Relatives of those trapped underground in a copper and gold mine gather around a screen showing the miners inside the mine at Copiapo, north of Santiago, Chile, on Thursday, Aug. 26. (Ivan Alvarado / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Marion Gallardo, the granddaughter of trapped miner Mario Gomez, writes a letter to her grandfather on Wednesday, Aug. 25. The 33 miners trapped in the San Esteban gold and copper mine in Copiapo, north of Santiago, since Aug. 5 say they are "enduring hell" underground, putting urgency into the rescue operation. (Ariel Marinkovic / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. A combined photo shows the 33 miners trapped in the mine in Copiapo, Chile. (Diario Atacama / Handout / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. Elias Sepulveda and her cousin Katherine embrace in front of a tribute to their relatives, Esteban Rojas and Pablo Rojas, two of the miners trapped in the collapsed mine. (Roberto Candia / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. An officer stands in front of the machine that will be used to rescue the miners. The miners were trapped when the shaft they were working in collapsed. (Claudio Reyes / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. Relatives of the trapped miners wave to rescue workers outside the collapsed mine. Rescue teams bored a small hole down more than 2,000 feet and used a video camera to confirm the miners were alive on Aug. 22. (Roberto Candia / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  37. Florencio Avalos, one of the trapped miners, is seen Aug. 23 in an image from video. The camera was lowered more than 2,000 feet into the copper and gold mine. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  38. Lilianette Ramirez, wife of trapped miner Mario Gomez, holds a letter from her husband outside the mine on Aug. 23. (Ivan Alvarado / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  39. Relatives of trapped miners embrace after learning that the 33 miners were found alive Aug. 22. (Stringer/chile / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  40. Chilean workers operate a drilling machine at the San Esteban gold and copper mine on Aug. 17. (Ariel Marinkovic / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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