Technology from gas cylinder manufacturer Luxfer played a vital role in an effort to rescue miners trapped 2,300 feet below ground in northern Chile.

This October marks a decade since the end of the longest underground entrapment in history, which saw a cave-in at the San Jose copper-gold mine in Copiapó trap 33 miners for almost 70 days.

The Chilean Government enlisted a host of specialists to help in the rescue effort including drilling teams, NASA experts and Nottingham, UK-based Luxfer Gas Cylinders.

On 13th October 2010, the final trapped Chileans were hoisted to the surface in a specially-designed steel escape capsule called Fenix – Phoenix in English – after the mythical bird that rose from the ashes.

The journey to the surface for all of the miners took two days and was made possible by oxygen delivered by four Luxfer L7X® 1-cubic-metre cylinders, which were housed inside the capsule.

Chilean miners

Source: Hugo Infante, Government of Chile

Despite an estimated one billion people watching the rescue via video stream worldwide, Luxfer’s role in the mission was not widely known.

Made from Luxfer’s patented L7X® higher-strength aluminium alloy and filled to 3,000 psig, the cylinders were supplied by its long-time Chilean customer, Indura.

They had to fit inside Fenix, which was just 21 inches in diameter, to allow it to travel inside the tunnel that has been drilled.

Mark Lawday, Global Sales Director at Luxfer Gas Cylinders, which is a business unit of Luxfer Holdings, said, “We’re pleased that Luxfer cylinders played a key role in such a critical operation, which was thankfully a success.”

“Our cylinders were fit for purpose because they are durable, which is vital in this kind of extreme environment.”

“They are also lightweight, and this is important given the range of kit that had to be inside the rescue capsule, including safety harnesses and communications devices.”

“This type of cylinder can be filled to high pressure too, meaning more oxygen was available to the miners as they made their ascent to the surface.”

The L7X® aluminium alloy cylinder used in the rescue effort is still manufactured today from the company’s Nottingham, UK base.

They can hold 50% more oxygen and are 40% lighter than steel varieties. With a 15-year warranty, the exact cylinders used in the operation could still be in use.