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Drilling begins to free two trapped miners -

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Broadcast: 03/05/2006

Drilling begins to free two trapped miners

Reporter: Scott Bevan

KERRY O'BRIEN: Now to the Beaconsfield mine site in northern Tasmania where after a long day of
very cautious preparation, the final critical round of drilling to free Brant Webb and Todd Russell
began tonight at about 6.45pm east coast time. For the latest, I'm joined at the mine by Scott
Bevan. Scott, now that the drilling has finally recommenced, can you just bring us up-to-date?

SCOTT BEVAN: Certainly, Kerry. I can tell you it is absolutely freezing here. It is very, very
cold, which I guess in some ways reflects the chilled mood in the town - one of apprehension and
tension and frustration, but that mood certainly would have been lifted a bit by the news that just
over an hour ago drilling finally began. There was some confusion earlier in the day about
midafternoon when there was talk that drilling had begun. It hadn't and I guess that's also a
reflection of how much caution surrounds this.

KERRY O'BRIEN: It has been three days now since the men were - it was discovered the men were alive
and they made that contact and that initial jubilation has faded somewhat. What are the key things
that have forced them to take this long time to get back to the drilling?

SCOTT BEVAN: I guess there are two major things. One is that when it was discovered that the two
men were alive and then it was ascertained they were in good health, good spirits and that they
could get food and water through to them, that bought time. Now it bought time not only for Brant
Webb and Todd Russell, but it also bought time for the rescue crews. It meant that they could take
a step back and think about the safest way and the most accurate way to drill through those 12
metres of rock and reach those men. The other issue is one of technical - I guess a technical issue
where the drill was bought over from the west coast of Tasmania and it is 5 tonnes of equipment and
they had to get it a kilometre below ground. But before that they had to create a platform for it
so 8 tonnes of concrete was poured. Now for anyone who's built a house they would know how long it
takes for a concrete slab to cure. They had to wait for that and then reassemble a kilometre down
with tradesmen these 5 tonnes of equipment to make the drill that will now be working through the
rock.

KERRY O'BRIEN: The mine management has been at pains to stress this final process could take a good
48 hours, but are they still saying that? Are they still using that 48-hour figure?

SCOTT BEVAN: No. That magic number we've all heard, which I guess an entire community, a state, a
country has been hanging on is not being said by the company. The company is at pains to say they
can't put an exact time figure on it. They keep saying it will take as long as it takes to do it as
safely as possible. Bearing in mind while it is only 12 metres of rock, there are a lot of unknown
in those 12 metres and they are trying to ensure that they don't create any more seismic activity
and create any more rock falls. Sources close to mineworkers with whom I've spoken have said if all
of the conditions are right it could be quicker than 48 hours, but the key word there is "if".

KERRY O'BRIEN: What is the latest, Scott, on the men's condition?

SCOTT BEVAN: Well, we've heard today, Kerry, that they are still in extraordinary health and
spirits, considering the predicament they are in. But a paramedic told the media, he's been down
there talking to the men down the PVC piping, and ascertaining what they are like physically and I
guess psychologically and he says for everyone concerned on both ends of that pipe it's like
running a marathon. There are peaks and valleys, there are highs and lows and there were a couple
of highs today I guess for the men. One is they had sent down the pipe digital cameras and not just
to take any old snaps, but snaps that would help get them out of there. Now these pictures that
they took were then sent back up on the disc through the pipe to give an idea to the rescue crews
where exactly they should be drilling towards and the conditions that these men are in at the
moment and the other thing that Brant Webb and Todd Russell have also received are personal music
devices known as ipods and we've learnt that Brant Webb asked for his to be loaded up with the
American rock band the Fu Fighters, rather loud guitar music, while Mr Russell has asked for a
selection of mixed country music. So while they might be physically in cramped space, at least they
will have a bit of space in their heads with this music.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Scott Bevan, thanks for that.

SCOTT BEVAN: Thanks, Kerry.

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