10/08/2010 09:41 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Trapped Chile Miners Near Rescue, Changed By Their Time Underground

TIERRA AMARILLA, Chile-- Fifty miles from a rescue operation poised to extract 33 miners trapped deep underground, Emilio Gonzalez pondered the fate of a pair of townsmen who went down into the mine together in August.

"Nothing here ever changes," says Mr. Gonzalez, looking out over the soccer field where he had watched the two men play on the same amateur club. "But you have to wonder if anything will ever be like it was before for them."

Around Saturday, rescuers at the site of the collapsed San José mine are expected to complete a 28-inch-shaft that extends a half-mile down to the chamber where the miners have taken refuge. After that, the men could be extracted in as few as three or as many as eight days, depending upon whether engineers deem it necessary to reinforce the shaft with steel casing, Mining Minister Laurence Golborne said. Then the plan is to use a specially designed capsule to extract, one at a time, men who have spent more than two months below.

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