Freed miners sign lucrative media deal

Sydney, May 17 | Updated: May 18 2006, 05:30am hrs
Two Australian gold miners trapped for 14 days underground have signed a media deal reportedly worth $1.5 million to tell their survival story, with a two-hour Australian television special to air on Sunday.

The media deal, announced by Australias Nine television network on Wednesday, is believed to be the highest ever paid to secure news talent, local newspapers said.

Miners Todd Russell, 34, and Brant Webb, 37, were trapped almost a kilometre underground after a cave-in on April 25 at the Beaconsfield Gold Mine on the southern island state of Tasmania. A third miner was killed in the cave-in. Russell and Webb were trapped in a small wire cage and survived on drinking mineral laced water run-off until rescuers managed to dig a small tunnel to feed them fresh water and food.

The miners story captivated Australia and international media. A deal is also expected with the US media. Digging through rock five times as hard as concrete rescuers finally freed the two miners on May 9. The miners amazingly walked out of the mine shaft uninjured and unassisted and handed out thank you cards titled The Great Escape to rescuers.

Australian media executives fought hard for the exclusive rights to the miners story, with two major television networks both running fund-raising concerts for the miners and their town.