The miners trapped underground in Chile for nearly two months could be brought to the surface still earlier than expected.
As tests continued on the special capsule designed to bring up each of the 33 miners individually, the authorities said the operation could take place later this month.
At the outset it was thought the men might remain underground till around Christmas, before the date was brought forward to November.
But a rescue shaft being drilled could be completed even earlier.
“Optimistically we can foresee that maybe, maybe we can rescue them in the second half of October,” said Mining Minister Laurence Golborne.
Chile’s president’s Sebastian Pinera is being kept informed; he wants to be there when the men are brought out.
While miners’ relatives continue their vigil above ground at Camp Hope, the drills have been cutting through the rock faster than anticipated.
Deep underground the miners are not forgotten. They’ve already received several signed football shirts; now a batch has been sent from Real Madrid.
The bad news is that when the miners are brought out they’ll have to leave some presents behind.