Thirty-three of 39 miners who were trapped underground in northern Ontario since Sunday have returned safely to the surface, the workers’ union said Tuesday as a rescue operation continued.
United Steelworkers, which represents workers trapped in Totten Mine near Sudbury, Ont., said they are pleased with the rescue operation thus far.
“A team of doctors is on site, checking workers as they emerge,” said the union, which represents 30 of the 39 staff members trapped in the mine. “No one has been physically injured in the incident or in the evacuation.”
Vale, the company that owns the mine, said it expects everyone to emerge Tuesday.
The employees were trapped in the mine on Sunday when a scoop bucket being sent underground detached and blocked the mine shaft, Vale said.
As a result, it said the “conveyance system” for taking workers to and from the surface became unavailable.
Vale said the trapped miners have been staying in underground “refuge stations,” some 900 to 1,200 metres underground, as part of the company’s standard procedures.
The workers began making their way out Monday night through a “a secondary egress ladder system,” the company said.
“We thank the impacted employees for their patience and perseverance and the mine rescue teams for their tireless dedication and support,” said Gord Gilpin, head of mining for Vale’s Ontario operations. “This has been an incredible team effort.”
A rescue team met the miners Monday and prepared them for the long journey to the surface.
The union said the miners had to scale a system of ladders, with each ladder being about six metres long and with a staging area at every break.
“When an incident like this unfortunately happens, everyone comes together,” said Nick Larochelle, president of USW Local 6500
“The miners support each other, the highly trained mine rescue teams come together and the whole community waits patiently praying for the safe return of every one of the 39 miners to surface.”
The company said the trapped miners had access to food, water and medicine. The union added that miners had been able to make phone calls to both communicate with rescuers and to call loved ones.
Totten Mine opened in 2014, in Worthington, Ont., and produces copper, nickel and precious metals. It employs about 200 people.
The province’s Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development, said an inspection team will investigate the incident once the rescue operation is finished.
—Liam Casey, The Canadian Press