At the San Jose mine in Copiapo, Chile, the Center Rock drill being used to reach miners trapped more than 2,000 feet underground has broken through to them, far ahead of the earlier projections that drilling might take until Christmas.

Brandon Fisher, CEO of Center Rock Inc., has been on-site directing the drilling of the shaft to rescue the 33 trapped Chilean gold and copper miners. The planned rescue itself will use a steel capsule – the “Phoenix,” designed by the Chilean navy – which will be lowered into the hole to bring the miners to the surface one-by-one.

Fisher, whose company built the drills, says that the pneumatic-based drilling system that bored the rescue shaft hole used four hammers instead of just one – similar to the drill that Center Rock used to initially reach the miners with a 12-inch pilot hole. 

This current drilling employs a T-130 rig, standing more than 145 feet tall with a Center Rock percussion-technology drill that can bore through as much as 131 feet of rock per day, depending on conditions. Center Rock has drilled holes as wide as 10 feet in diameter; this drill is carving a shaft 28 inches in diameter – wide enough to lift a man through using the capsule.

Center Rock’s pneumatic-driven air compression drills chips away at rock like a jackhammer. While Center Rock often is called upon for complex drilling projects with the creation of custom drill bits, this particular endeavor is no easy task. It’s been a difficult 24-hour-a-day effort, drilling in extremely hard rock. According to Fisher: "There was no way for us to know how long this would take, but progress has been excellent, months ahead of the original projections to reach the trapped miners.”

Center Rock’s drilling expertise was called upon to drill this rescue borehole for the 33 miners who were trapped during a cave-in on Aug. 5. The first small borehole that reached the miners 17 days after the mine collapse brought news to the world they were alive 2,070 feet below the surface. Rescuers have been sending food, medicine and letters through a small pipe to the miners, as well as video cameras so the miners can communicate with their families.