Drill rigs perched on a steep mountain chewed through sandstone in the U.S. state of Utah to within a few hundred feet early Thursday of six coal miners caught in a collapse 1,500 feet (457 meters) underground, one of the mine's co-owners said.
The machines were meant to open a slender lifeline if the men were still alive, but crews could not be certain they had cut the 2 1/2-inch-diameter (6.35 centimeter) hole on target.
The hole reached 1,300 feet (396 meters) deep, said Bob Murray, chairman of mine co-owner Murray Energy Corp. That left as little as 200 feet (61 meters) before rescuers could reach the chamber where the men were believed to be trapped and finally learn if the miners survived the cave-in early Monday.
A wider hole, slightly less than 9 inches (23 centimeters) wide, also was being drilled and officials hoped it could break through by Friday, Murray said.
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