Trapped Chilean Miners Told They Could Be Stuck Three Months

Chilean Miners: Trapped Underground

The 33 men trapped 2,258 feet below ground in a Chilean mine now know that it could be another three months before they will be free.

Government officials and psychologists decided the men had to be told the truth.

"For the first time yesterday, we talked about the time frame that is involved in the rescue, that as you may know is a three month time frame, 90 days beginning now." Chile's health minister Jaime Manalich said.

As family members on the surface are granted more access to their loved ones below, the emotional fragility of all this becomes more and more apparent.

In El Mercurio, letters from the miners to their families were published. One of the miners, Raul Bustos, told his wife, "the words you sent me made me cry....My God left us alive by a miracle and with a purpose."

Today, family members erupted in cheers when Chilean President Sebastian Pinera promised to reunite them with the miners, but he warned it will take time. Pinera also offered words of comfort to the miners.

"You will not be forgotten," Pinera told the miners by phone.

Mine Has Poor Safety Record

Chilean officials say that the Chilean mine where 33 men remain trapped 2,258 feet below ground has a poor safety record and a history of violations.

Chilean Miners: Trapped Underground
Chilean Miners: Trapped Underground

Senator Baldo Prokurica, a member of Chile's Senate mining commission, said that the two owners of the mine pushed exploitation beyond safe standards. He said that the five miles of tunnels inside the main shaft of the mine are like "Swiss cheese."

The main shaft of the gold and copper mine runs like a corkscrew under a mountain in Chile's Atacama Desert. Standard rock separation between a mine's various levels is typically 12 meters. In the main shaft of the mine where the August 5 collapse occurred, the levels were separated by a mere 8 meters, making the mine extremely unstable.

A U.S. expert told ABC News that Chile's mine safety record is better than that of the United States, but Chile's president has fired a number of senior mine safety officials and promised to pursue criminal charges in the wake of the mine collapse.

VIDEO: Officials broke the news to the men as the effort to keep spirits up begins.
Trapped Miners Now Know Rescue Will Take Months

The San Jose Mine is also located on a geological fault, making earthquakes a constant threat. This morning, an earthquake struck at the site of the mine. The 4.5 magnitude quake wasn't felt by many and there are no reports of damage.

Still, rescue workers say the threat of earthquakes and the age of the mine will make drilling the rescue tunnel tricky.

NASA, We Have A Problem

As the 33 men enter their twentieth day of accidental captivity fully aware that they may be trapped underground longer than any other miners in history, Chilean officials are looking for space-age help from NASA to keep the miners physically and mentally healthy.

The men are trapped in a hot, humid 600-square-foot shelter nearly a half mile below ground. The space is too small and too poorly ventilated for the men to sleep there so they sleep in other parts of the mine. There is no toilet and so the men are using a tunnel further away.

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