Chilean Miners Rescued with Help of Toughbook® Mobile Computers and Zephyr Technology’s BioHarness™ BT

Photo Courtesy of CNN

On October 13, 2010, 33 Chilean miners were rescued after being trapped approximately 2,000 feet underground for 69 days, marking the end of the longest-ever mining rescue operation. Securing their successful rescue was not done through the brute force of mining equipment alone. Zephyr Technology’s BioHarness™ BT and Panasonic Toughbook® U1 and CF-29 computers played a critical role in the rescue efforts.

To assist in the rescue operation, the Chilean government called upon Biomec, a Santiago, Chile-based company that works with businesses to determine the physical conditions of workers in their operating environment. One of the critical pieces of technology involved in monitoring the miners’ condition was the BioHarness BT from Annapolis-based Zephyr Technology.

Biomec was able to send the BioHarnesses down in the small cargo tubes, nicknamed “palomas”. The devices were then sent back to the surface and loaded on a fully-rugged, Panasonic Toughbook 29 located in the command center. This allowed the rescue team to determine the best order for the miners’ rescue and to understand how each miner would respond under stress while in the capsule.

When the rescuers’ drill finally broke through to the miners, Ben Morris, a field application engineer for Zephyr, arrived on scene to educate the Chilean minister of health and other rescue workers about the technology and explain how it could be integrated and operated for optimum success. After surveying the situation, Ben decided a rugged, handheld PC would be placed at the bottom of the Phoenix capsule, between the miners’ feet. However, the mine was extremely muddy, humid and wet. Panasonic’s ultra-mobile Toughbook U1 was identified as the ideal device.

On October 13, miner Florencio Avalos was pulled to the surface. A doctor was able to read the vital signs off the Toughbook U1 and treat the miners immediately with necessary care. Less than 24 hours after the first miner was rescued, the 33rd miner, Luis Urza, was safely pulled out of the mine – a successful resolution to an incredibly challenging rescue operation.

“With any rescue mission, reliable technology and equipment is critical to success. The combined solution of Zephyr Technology and Panasonic Toughbook mobile computers proved to be the perfect solution in our efforts to free the 33 Chilean miners,” said Ben Morris, field application engineer for Zephyr. “The portability and durability of the Toughbook U1 allowed medical staff to receive the miners’ vital signs as soon as the Phoenix capsule reached the surface – a critical component in the safe and healthy return of the stranded miners.”

To view the full Zephyr Technology/Panasonic Toughbook Chilean Miner rescue case study, click here.