PDAC, which opened at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre attracted thousands, but the biggest attraction at the mining conference was undoubtedly the Phoenix 1 capsule which helped rescue the 33 Chilean miners. Toronto, Canada. 09/03/2011
PDAC, which opened last Sunday at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, attracted over 25,000 delegates from 125 countries. However, the biggest attraction at PDAC (Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada ) mining conference was undoubtedly the exhibition of the Phoenix 1 capsule.
The 21-inch wide, bullet-shaped capsule was a fascinating reminder of the remarkable rescue of the 33 miners known as “ Los 33” or as “33 men”. That kept a billion people around the world riveted to television screens and Internet around a rescue in the northern desert of Copiapo , Chile.
They had spent a record 69 days underground. This is the first time that any of the three capsules has been on display in North America. The capsule structure also had to keep the person inside safe from falling slabs, as well as has a communication system to the exterior and the interior of the mine, among other criteria.
The Fenix 1 is slightly larger in diameter than the other two capsules, and was used for testing in the duct created by one of the drills, descending down about 700 meters. It was the Fenix 2, operated by an Austrian pulley system that was used to rescue the miners.
The Chilean Navy, in collaboration with NASA, the U.S. space agency, designed the capsules. More than 300 people were involved in the rescue mission last October that rescued 33 men trapped 700 meters below ground for over 69 days at the San Jose copper-gold mine in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile.
Attending the opening of the Chilean Mining booth was Bi-Minister Lawrence Golbourne , the new Ambassador of Chile in Canada, Roberto Ibarra . As well as many international media , and one of the biggest delegations at PDAC of 114 Chilean private and public representatives . Chile's mining minister, is now known worldwide for his management of the dramatic rescue operation that saved 33 gold miners from the San Jose Mine last year.
“We are happy that Chile is here once again here . We wanted to recuperate our position here that we lost, because of a lack of long-term vision for the future ,our country and an industry as important as the mining sector . We can not be absent , if we want to be recognized at the international level the important potential that Chile has for developing business in the mining sector” , says Minister Golbourne.
The former Minister of mining of Chile, Santiago Gonzales was scheduled to attend PDAC in 2010 , however due to the Feb 27th 8.9 earthquake the decision was taken not to attend by the former government.
Hundreds of people came out to PDAC for the first time see and take photos of the capsule painted in Chile's national colors of white, red and blue. Including many Chilean’s to take photos and see the famous Fenix 1 Capsule that captured their hearts. Olga Ayala from Valparaiso brought her family today and remembers watching minute by minute the historic and emotional rescue last year. “ It was so historic like when the first man walked on the moon. When people talk about Chile, we are now known around the world because of this” says Olga.
Other recent Chilean’s to Canada such as architect from Concepcion Horacio González with his wife Andrea came to take photographs of the Capsule holding their Chilean flags. Along with two Chilean- Canadian journalists Contributing Editor of the Santiago Times Eva Salinas and myself who were there covering the mining rescue with CBC the National.
Some like Christian Duran with Daniella were surprised to find themselves along side with Minister Golbourne at the photo opportunity . “ We were surprised to see the Minister with us and found him very nice as he stood with us in our photo”, says Duran.
Minister Golbourne’s busy tour of Toronto included a talk on Chile’s Mining titled “Rediscover Chile” , a Special Achievement Award dinner, in recognition of his management of the rescue operation that saved 33 goal miners last year. Finally a brief but important visit to the (TSX) Toronto Stock Exchange before returning back to Chile.
“This capsule represents the Chilean people,” he said, calling the rescue mission “a moment of union, a moment of strength.”
At the end of PDAC, the Phoenix 1 will traveled to Ottawa where it will be exhibited for one month at the Museum of Mining and Technology in the Canadian capital.
From there it will be taken to the Smithsonian Institute of Washington (USA), which will also be shown for a month before being returned back to Chile.
story and photos by Christian Peña