All 39 trapped miners at Vale’s Totten Mine safely reach surface
Three days after an accident damaged a shaft in Vale’s Totten Mine in Sudbury, Canada all 39 miners who had been trapped underground safely returned to the surface.
“I’d like to congratulate our rescue team,” Vale Chief Executive Officer Eduardo Bartolomeo said from Sudbury, where he met with employees and rescue personnel.
“Bringing our 39 employees home safe and healthy was our top priority and we’re glad that our emergency plans and procedures worked to deliver that outcome. All the employees are safe now and deserve our deep respect for their perseverance and strong will.”
The employees had been underground since reporting for dayshift when damage to the shaft rendered the normal conveyance system inoperable. Vale said the employees exited the mine with support from Vale’s mine rescue team through a secondary egress ladder system. The workers climbed up to as much as 1.2 km (4,000 ft) using a series of ladders, with the support of a rescue team.
The BBC reported that a heavy scoop bucket crashed into the lift system and blocked the shaft.
After the incident, the miners proceeded to refuge stations, where they had access to food and water, and remained in contact with their families and staff outside the mine.
The workers are using a secondary ladder system to leave the mine, with rest stops along the way. They had to climb between 550 m to 1.2 km (1,800 ft and 4,000 ft) to the surface, depending on where they were underground.
Some 58 responders from both Vale's Mine Rescue team and Ontario Mine Rescue, a training and safety program, helped with the extraction efforts. The rescue operation took two and a half days.
The rescue in the northern Ontario mine was a "complex situation," said local United Steel Workers union president Nick Larochelle in a statement.
Many of the rescue team members made four trips per shift, carrying heavy packs of supplies for the trapped miners. Rescue team members and miners alike were checked by medical staff as they emerged, and will be screened again over the next few days. Sudbury, which has a long history of mining in Canada, and has “some of the best rescue crews in the entire world - workers who voluntarily train on an ongoing basis, in case an emergency like this ever happens,” Larochelle said. “Mining is much safer than it once was. This work builds entire northern communities, but miners take a great deal of risk every time they go underground. We must never forget that.”
Vale, a Brazilian firm, said the company would investigate what happened in order to prevent similar future incidents.
Totten mine employs about 200 people to produce copper, nickel and precious metals.