SAN JOSE MINE, Chile (AP) - Rescuers on Monday finished reinforcing the hole drilled to bring 33 trapped miners to safety and sent a rescue capsule nearly all the way to where the men are trapped, proving the escape route works.
That means that if all goes well, everything will be in place at midnight Tuesday to begin pulling the men out of their subterranean purgatory.
Andre Sougarett, the rescue leader, said the empty capsule descended 2,000 feet (610 meters), just 40 feet (12 meters) short of the shaft system where the miners have been trapped since an Aug. 5 collapse.
"We didn't send it (all the way) down because we could risk that someone will jump in," Mining Minister Laurence Golborne told reporters, grinning.
He called the 6 a.m. test "very promising, very positive" and said the capsule, the biggest of three built by Chilean Navy engineers, "performed very well in the duct."
"It didn't even raise any dust," he said.
The steel capsule, named Phoenix I, was lowered by winch into the hole after its top 180 feet (55 meters) were encased in tubing, said Sougarett.
His deputy, Rene Aguilar, told The Associated Press it was lowered at least four times.