Grove cranes help with Chilean miners rescue

Staff Writer
Echo Pilot
Grove cranes provided key support during the rescue of 33 miners trapped underground in a mine outside of Copiapo, Chile.

Several Manitowoc cranes provided key support during the rescue of 33 miners trapped underground in a mine outside of Copiapo, Chile. The event captured the attention of audiences worldwide, as TV networks broadcasted the dramatic scene as each miner was hoisted to the surface with a winch suspended from a yellow tripod.

Behind the scenes, hundreds of people and dozens of pieces of support equipment worked non-stop to prepare for the rescues. The Manitowoc equipment included a Grove GMK5130-2 all-terrain crane and four Grove rough-terrain cranes.

Raul Burger, owner of Burger Gruas, a crane rental company based in Santiago, said he was asked to help with reinforcing the rescue shaft by Codelco, the state-owned copper producer leading the rescue efforts. Burger sent a Grove GMK5130-2 all-terrain crane to the rescue site.

“We learned there was a strong possibility that a reinforcement casing would need to be inserted into the rescue shaft,” Burger said. “That casing was composed of five 12 m pipe sections, each approximately 70 cm in diameter and weighing 5 t.”

Burger's technical staff arrived at the mine on Oct. 4. The GMK 5130-2 arrived Oct. 12 and remained on site until Oct. 18. It was used to help unload trucks and assemble a crawler crane. Burger had two shifts of four people working around-the-clock at the site.

The 130 t (165 USt) capacity GMK 5130-2 has a 60 m (197 ft) main boom, and with its hydraulic luffing jib, the crane can reach heights of 95 m (312 ft). Thirteen different counterweight configurations allow maximum versatility for this crane.

Vecchiola, a company based in Copiapo that specializes in mining support services, was also called in to help with the rescue. The company had four Grove rough-terrain cranes on site — two RT760s and two RT9100s and 18 people, including riggers, operators and supervisors, working continuously.

Edgard Vecchiola said the rough-terrain cranes were used primarily to unload components for the various drills being used in the operation.

“The RT760 unloaded and helped assemble the drill for one of the rescue plans,” he said. “And one of the RT9100s unloaded and assembled the petroleum drill for a secondary rescue shaft.”

The drill tower that was part of the secondary rescue plan arrived to the site in 42 trucks. The pieces were unloaded in record time, and the tower was assembled in 14 days without incident.

One of Vecchiola's RT760s was also used to assemble the now-familiar yellow tripod that supported the winch used to hoist the miners to the surface. Vecchiola personnel also helped unload and construct the mobile hospital where the miners were first treated before being transported to Copiapo.

Both Burger and Vecchiola were on hand when the hoisting of the trapped miners began.

Burger said he was proud that his company and employees were a part of the extraordinary effort.

“It was a very exhausting and emotional week leading up to the rescue,” he said. “And it was so exciting when the first miner emerged from the shaft. I was so proud that our cranes and expertise were put to good use.”