RCAF, Quebec drilling company help in rescue of trapped miners in Dominican Republic

·2 min read
The drill was transported to the Dominican Republic in a C-17 transport plane. (Jean Philippe RIchard - image credit)
The drill was transported to the Dominican Republic in a C-17 transport plane. (Jean Philippe RIchard - image credit)

The Royal Canadian Air Force and a Quebec drilling company teamed up to help rescue two miners in the Dominican Republic that were trapped underground.

Master Cpl. Shane Dich, a traffic technician with the air force, says 8 Wing Trenton snapped into action quickly to transport crucial excavation equipment from a drilling company in Val D'Or down to the island nation to get the miners out.

Finding out the miners were safely removed "was probably the single most relief I've ever had," said Dich. "This is what we've trained for."

Dich said he got a call on Aug. 4 telling him to be ready within 24 hours.

His job was to go to Val D'Or and see if the giant drill was deployable to the Dominican Republic. The drill weighed thousands of pounds and had to be transported on a C-17 aircraft.

"It's a situation or something that had never been done before,"  said Dich, and "time was of the essence to get all this stuff there all at once."

Christian St-Amour, the operations manager at Machine Roger, the company that provided the drill, said they have a special drill head that is wider than many others on the market — about 76 centimetres in diameter — and it can drill a hole wide enough to pull a person through.

St-Amour and four other staff flew to the Dominican Republic in the C-17 with the drill. He said that despite the work they put into planning the shipment, there were a lot of unknowns about the conditions on the ground that made the task daunting.

"That was a lot of pressure," said St-Amour.

He said he saw when the rock in between the miners and freedom broke, and heard the miners call out to the rescuers. St-Amour said the two miners looked to be "in pretty good shape" as they drove back to the surface.

"The party started right after that. Everybody was happy," said St-Amour.

The two miners with the Dominican Mining Corporation, Gregores Mendez and Carlos Yepez, were trapped in the underground Cerro de Maimon mine from July 31 to Aug. 9.