Mandalay Resources’ (TSX:MND) mine in Chile is now completely flooded, including a shelter rescuers were hoping two trapped miners had reached, the officer in charge of the search said.
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, EFE news agency reported (in Spanish).
A waterproof camera is 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.
The two men, identified as Enrique Ojeda (34) and Jorge Sánchez (25), were trapped after section two of the Delia NW mine, part of Mandalay’s Cerro Bayo gold-silver complex, flooded on June 9.
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 have 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.
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 an update issued past midnight Monday, the company provided a detailed account of all the rescue efforts so far. It also 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.
According to Mandalay, those two mines are expected to supply a significant portion of the remaining life of mine plan. However, it noted the reopening of any mine at Cerro Bayo is “dependent on the results of ongoing investigations into the root causes of the Delia NW event, resulting risk analysis of the possibility of reopening and government permits to reopen.” Such work, it added, is likely to take several months.
The unfolding event recalls the 2010 mining accident in northern Chile, when 33 miners made world headlines after they survived in an emergency shelter for more than three months before being rescued.
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.