Rescue of minors in the Dominican Republic: Canada played a vital role

OTTAWA — The recent successful rescue of two miners trapped in a mine in the Dominican Republic for more than a week was made possible with support from the international community, including direct assistance from the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), according to the president of the company at the center of the incident.

Paul Marinko, head of the Dominican mining company known as Cormidom, said Canada had played a vital role in transporting the equipment that was used to help free the men from the Cerro de Maimón mine.

From July 31 to August 9, Gregores Mendez and Carlos Yepez spent 10 days trapped 31 meters below the surface.

Marinko said national support for the rescue effort was strong, with Dominican President Luis Abinader calling daily to check on the progress of the rescue and various government departments providing direct support on the ground.

He added that experts from the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom were also involved and that the Canadian government had played a key role in obtaining and supplying equipment for the rescue operation.

“It was heartwarming to see this response,” Mr. Marinko said in a videoconference interview.

Mr Marinko said the company sprang into action immediately after the “land fall” which left the miners confined to a 400 square meter space. Within 15 hours of the incident, crews involved in the rescue had dug a hole through which they delivered water, food, walkie-talkies, entertainment and a light source.

Nonetheless, Paul Marinko claimed the experience was terrifying for both men.

Miners reported rising waters that eventually reached waist-level, but Mr Marinko says they were able to pump the water out at six times the speed of the inflow.

“You can imagine being trapped, seeing the waters rising and knowing the rescue isn’t going to be quick. So they went through terrifying times,” he said.

After assessing what equipment would be needed to rescue the miners safely, Mr Marinko said the company had started trying to find the equipment overseas.

Machines Rogers International, a mining company based in Val D’Or, Quebec, has agreed to loan the necessary machinery to Cormidom, and the Dominican government has contacted Ottawa for assistance in transporting the equipment.

“The problem for us was to transport (…) was just beyond our resources, we did not have the capacity to do it”, mentioned the president of the mining company Cormidom.

The Royal Canadian Air Force transported the mining excavation system to the Dominican capital of Santo Domingo on August 7. Two days later, the miners were rescued with the help of a team sent by Machines Rogers International.

Defense Minister Anita Anand tweeted on Tuesday thanking Royal Canadian Air Force personnel involved in the mission.

“To our airmen – you make Canadians proud and we are grateful for your service,” Ms. Anand wrote.

Mr Marinko said the two miners were discharged from hospital on Thursday and are now with their families.

The rescue comes after a coal mine collapse in Mexico left 15 miners trapped, five of whom were injured. Initial attempts by rescuers to reach the ten remaining miners failed, Mexican authorities said on Thursday.

“I think of those poor men trapped in Mexico,” Mr. Marinko said. “We were lucky.”

The cause of the incident at Cerro de Maimón is currently under investigation and the underground mine is temporarily closed.

“When the authorities and more importantly, when I am convinced that it is safe, we will return”, mentioned President Marinko.

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