Miners trapped in Mandalay mine unlikely to be alive: Chile’s Army

Rescue work underway at the Delia Mine in Chile's southern Aysén region. (Image: Chile’s Ministry of Interior.)

SANTIAGO – Search operations were continuing around the clock with up to 120 people on day shift and 60 at night, Mandalay said in an update issued past midnight Monday.

Mandalay Resources’ (TSX:MND) mine in Chile is now completely flooded, including a shelter rescuers were hoping two trapped miners had reached, according to the officer in charge of the search.

General Fernando San Cristóbal, head of the rescue team, said the results of a drilling probe conducted to locate the two missing miners found water at level 55, which is where they were supposed to be at the time of the accident and where the emergency shelter is located, the EFE news agency reported.

“A waterproof camera was expected to reach the area Monday,” the officer noted, which will allow searchers to see the actual conditions of the section where the miners are believed to have been working.

Enrique Ojeda, 34, and Jorge Sánchez, 26, were last seen operating scoop and dump trucks in Section 2 of the Delia mine – beneath a lagoon – when the area became “completely inundated with water”.

Two workers missing following Patagonia mine flood

It’s unknown whether the missing miners, are still alive as authorities have been unable to make contact with them.

Cerro Bayo mine, which produced around 14,000 ounces of gold and 1.7 million ounces of silver last year, is located in Chile’s Aysén region, one of the country’s least populated, but which is known for its abundance of lakes and glaciers.

A remote-controlled submarine robot, a drilling expert, emergency services and government departments have been working together since then to find the two miners, but they have been unable to make contact with them so far.

Heavy snowfall last week and the gelid waters of a surrounding lagoon have complicated rescue efforts, and some experts believe the two trapped men had about 24 hours left of air, assuming the shelter – which is located some 200 metres underground and about 50 metres from the site of the landslide – is not flooded.

Chile: Heavy snowfall hampers rescue of workers trapped at Patagonia mine

NASA has offered a robot equipped with technology to explore the seabed, which would allow the search team reach areas covered in mud. While the agency wouldn’t charge for the equipment, Chile would have to pay for its transportation, logistics and experts’ stay, local radio Bío Bío reported (in Spanish).

Mandalay’s stock has dropped more than 30% percent since its June 8 close of 56 Canadian cents, to close Friday at 41 cents. Shares were dropping further Monday morning (-1.23%), changing hands at 40 cents.

In a statement, the company said immediate impact on reserves and ultimate total production at property was expected to be small, adding that the other two producing mines at the Cerro Bayo complex – Coyita and Delia SE – are not flooded and intact.

In 2010, 33 miners made world headlines after they survived in an emergency shelter for more than three months before being rescued from a mine in northern Chile.