We were so riveted by the return of the Chilean miners and their reunion with family and loved ones, so captivated by their individual emergence and the joy that broke out in the crowd of rescuers each time one was pulled up, that we might not have heard much about how that whole operation came together as it did. What’s the back story of that?
It’s an international one, made possible by innovation, cooperation and….capitalism? Here’s how the Wall Street Journal looks at it.
If those miners had been trapped a half-mile down like this 25 years ago anywhere on earth, they would be dead. What happened over the past 25 years that meant the difference between life and death for those men?
Short answer: the Center Rock drill bit.
This is the miracle bit that drilled down to the trapped miners. Center Rock Inc. is a private company in Berlin, Pa. It has 74 employees. The drill’s rig came from Schramm Inc. in West Chester, Pa. Seeing the disaster, Center Rock’s president, Brandon Fisher, called the Chileans to offer his drill. Chile accepted. The miners are alive.
We knew it was a remarkable, international, cooperative effort. We probably didn’t know just how much of each it really was.
The high-strength cable winding around the big wheel atop that simple rig is from Germany. Japan supplied the super-flexible, fiber-optic communications cable that linked the miners to the world above.
A remarkable Sept. 30 story about all this by the Journal’s Matt Moffett was a compendium of astonishing things that showed up in the Atacama Desert from the distant corners of capitalism.
Samsung of South Korea supplied a cellphone that has its own projector. Jeffrey Gabbay, the founder of Cupron Inc. in Richmond, Va., supplied socks made with copper fiber that consumed foot bacteria, and minimized odor and infection.
Chile’s health minister, Jaime Manalich, said, “I never realized that kind of thing actually existed.”
It’s fascinating, what we learn about innovation and seemingly boundless capacity at times like this. But the reason technology is developing faster and reaching greater capacities is the point of Henninger’s commentary: a free economy that encourages innovation and rewards the human ingenuity behind it.
The miners’ rescue is a thrilling moment for Chile, an imprimatur on its rising status. But I’m thinking of that 74-person outfit in Berlin, Pa., whose high-tech drill bit opened the earth to free them. You know there are tens of thousands of stories like this in the U.S., as big as Google and small as Center Rock. I’m glad one of them helped save the Chileans. What’s needed now is a new American economic model that lets our innovators rescue the rest of us.