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Lowboy Trailer Carries Drill Used in Chilean Mine Rescue

Tue December 07, 2010 - Northeast Edition
Mary Reed


An Eager Beaver 50GSL/3 trailer owned by Juan Videla of Transportes Fish transports a section of the Strata 950 drill. This was one of the drills used in the rescue of the 33 Chilean miners at the Copiapo, Chile, mine.
An Eager Beaver 50GSL/3 trailer owned by Juan Videla of Transportes Fish transports a section of the Strata 950 drill. This was one of the drills used in the rescue of the 33 Chilean miners at the Copiapo, Chile, mine.

An American-manufactured Eager Beaver lowboy trailer played an important role in efforts to free 33 miners trapped on Aug. 5, 2010, by a rock fall in the San José mine, approximately 28 mi. (45 km) north of Copiapo, Chile.

As news of the disaster spread, an international rescue mission overseen by the Chilean government swung into action.

While the United Parcel Service (UPS) moved more than 71,870 lbs. (32,600 kg) of equipment, the first rig to begin drilling a rescue borehole was a Strata 950. It began work on Aug. 30, eight days after the men were discovered to be still alive. The rig belongs to South African mining company Murray & Roberts Holdings Ltd. and was already in Chile, having just completed a job at a copper mine for the Andina Division of Codelco, the state-owned copper company.

Because of its weight, the Strata 950 rig was disassembled and hauled to the mine on a convoy of 11 trailers, including the Eager Beaver 50GSL/3 trailer. The 24-hour long journey was shown live on Chilean TV as the rig traveled 497 to 559 mi. (800 to 900 km) to the mine.

The Eager Beaver trailer was among the first Transportes Fish, a Los Andes-based transportation company, purchased from Alo Ventas of Santiago.

Transportes Fish’s unusual name is based on its owner Juan Videla’s nickname when he worked for a copper company before he and his wife established their company. Alo Ventas is co-owned by Sandra Franco and Alejandro Zenklussen and is currently among the largest distributors of Eager Beaver Trailers in the world.

Transportes Fish became involved in the rescue effort because it works for Codelco and was consulted on whether they had trailers that could transport 300 to 400 tons (272 to 363 t).

Certain preparations had to be made at the mine before the drill could begin boring.

“A concrete platform had to be built and then the drill — the largest drill in South America at the time and one of five such drills in the world — was assembled at the rescue site,” recalled Christina Flowers, international sales manager of Eager Beaver Trailers.

While the company manufactures trailers with capacities ranging from five to 60 tons (4.5 to 54.4 t), its 50GSL/3 50-ton (45 t) three-axle model was chosen for the job because the drill weighs approximately 40 tons (36 t). With a length of 48 ft. 6 in. (14.8 m) and width of 8 ft. 6 in. (2.6 m), this particular model of trailer can carry loads weighing up to 100,000 lbs. (45,359 kg) and is popular for hauling construction equipment, such as excavators or other heavy machinery.

The Strata 950 rig was used in Plan A, in which the miners participated by clearing cuttings (drilling debris) cascading down the borehole, using shovels, wheelbarrows, and sweepers on hand while working round-the-clock shifts. It has been estimated that 1,102 lbs. (500 kg) of rock dropped into their tunnel every hour, and that the trapped men ultimately moved as much as 771 tons (700 t).

However, it was Plan B’s Schramm T130XD drill that was first to reach the miners, breaking through on Oct. 9. By then Plan A’s borehole had reached a depth of 1,962 ft. (598 m) but had not begun its second phase, during which it would widen the shaft it had drilled.

“Eager Beaver Trailers was very excited to be a part of the rescue mission. Trailers often get overlooked in the industry, so it was nice to see such an important part of the mission being moved on one of our trailers,” Flowers noted. “It shows that a lot of times, no job would be able to get done without the trailer.”

“It was a nice connection because of our relationship with our distributor in Santiago. It was especially nice to see the American companies and agencies that were able to help out with machines, knowledge, and experience and basically save the lives of 33 men. We were proud to have been a small part in the rescue effort,” she said.

After the rescue concluded, the Eager Beaver trailer remained at the mine for a couple of days and then transported the equipment to a port to be shipped to Canada. As for the trailer, it is still in operation as part of Transportes Fish’s fleet in Chile.

With six Eager Beavers purchased since 2002, Videla has recommended these trailers to other businesses in Chile. “The trailers have been successful and are being used by private and state mining industries in the north and central areas of Chile,” he said.

Transportes Fish recently ordered a new 50GSL-PT Eager Beaver, which was delivered to the port of Santiago the second week of November.

Eager Beaver Trailers is a third-generation company, founded in 1946 by Flowers’s grandfather and currently run by her father, Frank Flowers. Flowers describes Eager Beaver as “a true family business!” in that not only has she worked there for 18 years but her mother, sister, and brother also work at the company.

The company’s trailers are manufactured in Lake Wales, Fla., with a sales and parts depot in Mickleton, N.J. Eager Beaver has been active in international sales since the 1970s and has sold trailers all over the world.

Footage of the drill being hauled to the mine can be seen on Youtube at www.youtube.com/watch?v=uO7ds15ZqeE. CEG