All 72 miners trapped by a fire in a potash mine in Saskatchewan were safe and back on the surface Monday, a day after taking refuge from the smoke and flames.
By early Monday morning, rescuers had brought 67 miners to the surface, said Gary Phillips, a spokesperson for Mosaic, the U.S.-based company that owns the mine. A company official said shortly after 9 a.m. that the remaining five mine employees – who were trapped deepest in the mine – had been brought to the surface and all were healthy.
Rescuers had to ensure that smoke and toxic fumes were cleared before the miners could leave their refuge stations in the mine.
Officials said on Sunday night that all had been found safe and unhurt.
The workers holed up in sealed emergency rooms after the fire broke out in the mine near Esterhazy, about 210 kilometres northeast of Regina.
The fire was put out before midnight local time, Mosaic officials said.
- FROM JAN. 29, 2006: Miners found safe in Saskatchewan mine
All the miners survived by retreating to refuge rooms, which had enough oxygen supplies to last at least 36 hours, as well as water, food, beds and blankets.
"The fire is out; it's obviously good news," Marshall Hamilton, a Mosaic spokesperson, said in a telephone news conference at about midnight.
"They're all safe, they're all secure, they're all accounted for."
Six-person teams of rescue workers had been entering the mine to work rotating shifts starting two hours after the fire started.
Mine officials were quickly able to establish radio contact with about 40 of the workers, who camped out in two refuge rooms.
The fate of 30 others remained uncertain until shortly before 9 p.m., when a rescue team found them in another refuge room about 1.5 kilometres from the fire.
"I won't kid you, there was a lot of relief in that," Hamilton said.
He said the team of six rescuers entered the room and spoke with the miners to confirm they were uninjured. The team then resealed the room to protect the miners from fumes and smoke.
Mine officials said the fire broke out on a polyethylene pipe that burned "like a wick" and generated black smoke that made it hard for firefighters to access. The company said it was too early to speculate about the cause of the fire.
Some of the miners work for Dynatec, a contractor with the mine.