ENGINEERS drilling to reach the trapped Chilean miners entombed deep underground for more than two months have completed the rescue shaft.
The breakthrough released a wave of celebration as news swept across the makeshift site at the surface, more than 700 meters above where the miners are trapped.
Engineers said they drilled through the last four meters of rock with special care to avoid tunnel collapses.
A drill broke through to the cavern shortly after 8am local time, creating a shaft just wide enough for a specially designed escape capsule to pass through.
Mining minster Laurence Golborne said a decision would be made soon on when the miners will be brought to the surface.
Mr Golborne said: “This is an important achievement, but we still haven’t rescued anybody. This rescue won’t be over until the last person below leaves this mine.
“We have been drilling for 33 days and there are 33 souls down there waiting to be rescued. The miners are cleaning up and preparing themselves for the next stages.”
Engineers on the surface will now talk to the miners to establish the conditions underground and make sure the rescue shaft is wide enough to bring the miners up to the surface.
The miners will then need to carry out a series of controlled explosions to clear the shaft completely.
The miners have been trapped underground in the northern Chile copper and gold mine since August 5.
Experts say it will now take three to 10 days before the first miner is pulled to the surface.