The Drillers, Rigs, Rock and Hart of the Chile Mine Rescue

Drilling Rock Star, Jeff Hart

Drilling Rock Star, Jeff Hart As 33 trapped miners waited more than 2,000-ft underground for their rescue, a whole team of Chilean government officials, mining engineers, equipment manufacturers and of course drillers came together get the job done.  Jeff Hart, a driller from Denver, Colorado was one of the stars of the day.  Hart was in Afghanistan drilling deep water wells when he got the call and hopped on a plane.  He works for Kansas-based Layne Christensen, and along with 3 other Layne employees, he manned the Schramm T130 drill rig that was part of “Plan B” that eventually became the shaft from which the trapped miners were rescued.

matt_sttafell_jorge_herreraOn the drilling platform overseeing the drilling was James Stefanic of Layne, and crew members Matt Staffel, Doug Reeves and Jorge Herrera.  The rig and I presume some of the support equipment was owned by Layne’s Latin America affiliate, Geotec Boyles Bros, SA.  The drill bits were from Center Rock, Inc. of Berlin, Pennsylvania.  The Center Rock CEO, Brandon Fisher, was on site throughout the operation as well.

Schramm_685Before Hart and his crew ever got to the site, the initial borehole that located the miners and provided a conduit for food, water, supplies and communication was drilled by a Schramm 685 rig.  That occurred 17 days after the miners were initially trapped.  Three plans were derived by the Chilean government to provide the best chance for rescue, referred to as Plans A through C.  Initial estimates were that the rescue would take until Christmas, but Hart and crew beat that mark by over 2 months!

The rock was an abrasive and very hard quartzite.  Plans A and C were utilizing conventional rock coring techniques to drill the holes.  But despite some initial reservations by the Chilean government, Fisher and others convinced them that Center Rock’s down-hole hammer bits on the Schramm T130 drill rig would work for this job. They first drilled the 2,040-ft with a 5-in hole, then reamed it to 12-in, and finally to 26-in diameter, large enough to fit the Phoenix rescue capsule.

Schramm_T130XD center_rock_products lowering_bit

final_minutesOnce that jubilant breakthrough moment occurred, the stress was lifted from the drilling crew, they had gotten their job done.  Before the Schramm T130 moved off the hole, the shaft was inspected by video camera.  Based on the inspection, Mining Minister Laurence Golborne decided to reinforce less than 315-ft of the top of the shaft with steel casing.  He defended his decision, saying it was purely technical and based on the input from a team of eight geologists and mining engineers.

demobe_paradeAfter 33 days, the Layne/Geotec/Schramm/Center Rock team had reached the 33 trapped miners.  Several days later, the Schramm rig demobed from the site, but in a fashion that is quite unusual in the drilling profession.  Jeff Hart and the rest of the crew were essentially paraded out in front of the drill rig, surrounded by police and grateful family members of the miners.  Hart and crew didn’t stick around at the site, but moved out of the way to let other teams complete the rescue.  They flew to the Santiago office of Layne/Geotec where they watched the rescue.

20101009__driller_jeff_hart_2 final_minutes2  jeff_hart_congrats

After a long time away from his family, Jeff Hart returned to Denver to a hero’s welcome, including his 3 sisters wearing t-shirts with the slogan “Got Hart?” on the front.  Hart seems like a pretty humble guy, and I found a quote from one of his interviews with American media over the phone from Santiago that I think sums it up pretty well: 

This is the most important thing I have done in my work life and probably the most important thing I will ever do…

Photo credits: Geotec Boyles Bros, SA; Schramm Inc.; Center Rock, Inc.

Jeff Hart Interviews

Links and Sources for Chile Mine Rescue


  1. This was cool! Answered a lot of questions I had about the rescue. Could somebody explain the nature of the intial collapes of the mine? This is part of the story that is not mentioned much at all.

  2. Great. Congrats to all crew members.
    I actually wondered weher resistivity geophysical experiments were done to choose the best line for the drilling which would then be expanded for the resque capsle.
    I was with the resque operation by the TV set prayerfully all the time. Thanks to GOD no life was lost.

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