What does the story of the Chilean miners rescue suggest to you about the variety of ways that project management can be used in the modern world?

Rescue of Chilean Miners On October 13, 2010, Foreman Luiz Urzua stepped out of the rescue capsule to thunderous applause and cries of “Viva, Chile!”; he was the last of 33 miners rescued after spending 70 days trapped beneath 2,000 feet of earth and rock. Following a catastrophic collapse, the miners were trapped in the lower shafts of the mine, initially without contact with the surface, leaving the world in suspense as to their fate. Their discovery and ultimate rescue are a story of courage, resourcefulness, and ultimately, one of the most successful projects in recent times. The work crew of the San Jose copper and gold mine near Copiapo, in northern Chile, were in the middle of their shift when suddenly, on August 5, 2010, the earth shook and large portions of the mine tunnels collapsed, trapping 33 miners in a “workshop” in a lower gallery of the mine. Though they were temporarily safe, they were nearly a half mile below the surface, with no power and food for two days. Worse, they had no means of communicating with the surface, so their fate remained a mystery to the company and their families. Under these conditions, their main goal was simple survival, conserving and stretching out meager food supplies for 17 days, until the first drilling probe arrived, punching a hole in the ceiling of the shaft where they were trapped. Once they had established contact with the surface and provided details of their condition, a massive rescue operation was conceived and undertaken. The first challenge was simply keeping the miners alive. The earliest supply deliveries down the narrow communication shaft included quantities of food and water, oxygen, medicine, clothing, and necessities for survival as well as materials to help the miners pass their time. While groups worked to keep up the miners’ spirits, communicating daily and passing along messages from families, other project teams were formed to begin developing a plan to rescue the men. The challenges were severe. Among the significant questions that demanded practical and immediate answers were: 1. How do we locate the miners? 2. How quickly can we drill relief shafts to their location? 3. How do we bring them up safely? The mine tunnels had experienced such damage in the collapse that simply digging the miners out would have taken several months. A full-scale rescue operation was conceived to extract the miners as quickly as possible. The U.S.-Chilean company Geotec Boyles Brothers, a subsidiary of Layne Christensen Company, assembled the critical resources from around the world. In western Pennsylvania, two companies that were experienced in mine collapses in the South American region were brought into the project. They had UPS ship a specialty drill, capable of creating wide-diameter shafts, large enough to fit men without collapsing. The drill arrived within 48 hours, free of charge. In all, UPS shipped more than 50,000 pounds of specialty equipment to the drilling and rescue site. The design of the rescue pod was the work of a NASA engineer, Clinton Cragg, who drew on his experience as a former submarine captain in the Navy and directed a team of 20 to conceive of and develop a means to carry the miners one at a time to the surface. Doctors from NASA and U.S. submarine experts arrived at the mine site in mid-August, to assess the psychological state of the miners. Using their expertise in the physical and mental pressures of dealing with extended isolation, they worked with local officials to develop an exercise regimen and a set of chores for the workers in order to give them a sense of structure and responsibilities. The miners knew that help was being assembled, but they had no notion of the technical challenges of making each element in the rescue succeed. Nevertheless, with contact firmly established with the surface through the original contact drill shaft, the miners now began receiving news, updates from the surface, and a variety of gifts to ease the tedium of waiting. The United States also provided an expert driller, Jeff Hart, who was called from Afghanistan, where he was helping American forces find water at forward operating bases, to man the specialty drilling machine. The 40-year-old drilled for 33 straight days, through tough conditions, to reach the men trapped at the mine floor. A total of three drilling rigs were erected and began drilling relief shafts from different directions. By September 17, Hart’s drill (referred to as “Plan B”) reached the miners, though the diameter of the shaft was only 5 inches. It would take a few weeks to ream the shaft with progressively wider drill bits to the final 25-inch diameter necessary to support the rescue capsules being constructed. Nevertheless, the rescue team was exuberant over the speed with which the shaft reached the trapped miners. Because of the special skills of the mining professionals, it is estimated that they cut more than two months off the time that experts expected this phase of the operation to take. The first rescue capsule, named Phoenix, arrived at the site on September 23, with two more under construction and due to be shipped in two weeks. The Phoenix capsule resembled a specially designed cylindrical tube. It was 13 feet long and weighed 924 pounds with an interior width of 22 inches. It was equipped with oxygen and a harness to keep occupants upright, communication equipment, and retractable wheels. The idea was for the capsule to be narrow enough to be lowered into the rescue shaft but wide enough for one person at a time to be fitted inside and brought back to the surface. To ensure that all 33 miners would fit into the Phoenix, they were put on special liquid diets and given an exercise regimen to follow while waiting for the final preparations to be made. Finally, after extensive tests, the surface team decided that the shaft was safe enough to support the rescue efforts and lowered the first Phoenix capsule into the hole. In two successive trips, the capsule carried down a paramedic and rescue expert who volunteered to descend into the mine to coordinate the removal of the miners. The first rescued miner broke the surface just after midnight on October 13 following a 15-minute ride in the capsule. A little more than 22 hours later, the shift manager, Urzua, was brought out of the mine, ending a tense and stressful rescue project. The rescue operation of the Chilean miners was one of the most successful emergency projects in recent memory. It highlighted the ability of people to work together, marshal resources, gather support, and use innovative technologies in a humanitarian effort that truly captured the imagination of the world. The challenges that had to be overcome were significant: first, the technical problems associated with simply finding and making contact with survivors; second, devising a means to recover the men safely; third, undertaking special steps to ensure the miners’ mental and physical health remained strong; and finally, requiring all parties to develop and rely on radical technologies that had never been used before. In all these challenges, the rescue team performed wonders, recovering and restoring to their families all 33 trapped miners. On November 7, just one month after the rescue, one of the miners, Edison Pena, realized his own personal dream: running in and completing the New York City marathon. Quite an achievement for a man who had just spent more than two months buried a half mile below the surface of the earth!35 Questions 1. What does the story of the Chilean miners rescue suggest to you about the variety of ways that project management can be used in the modern world? 2. Successful project management requires clear organization, careful planning, and good execution. How were each of these traits shown in this rescue example?

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