Mine to be reassessed tomorrow
Tue, 17 Jul 2012 10:31p.m.
By Jenny Suo
A fire that broke out and trapped 28 men in an underground mine is still burning tonight. The miners were trapped for up to seven hours inside the Trio gold mine in Waihi before being safely brought to the surface.
“The teams were really positive going up to the surface, they had the confidence that the response plan was being adhered to, they were in good spirits, most of the boys had just finished late shift so they were sleeping,” says Steve Price, mines rescue co-ordinator.
Just before dawn the alarms sounded at the Waihi gold mine, a truck had caught fire underground sending smoke billowing from the ventilation shaft.
And it was the smoke that trapped the 28 men 300m underground, it wasn't until around midday that it was confirmed everyone had been rescued.
They escaped virtually unharmed, only one man was treated for smoke inhalation
“I’m very pleased to say that in the last 10 minutes, we have had confirmation that the remaining 15 miners are on the surface, everyone is now accounted for and well," said Waihi Gold generally manager Glen Grindlay.
The truck that caught fire was just below the surface of the mine, another truck driver called in the emergency and the miners scrambled to their closest refuge chamber.
Inside the chambers they had first aid kits, water and enough oxygen to last 35 hours.
The 40 tonne dump truck was used to haul raw material up the tunnels, and it is thought the fire started in the engine
The interior of the mine is a complex series of tunnels of which the deepest point is around 330m.
An expert told 3 News he was impressed by the rescue effort but he says there's a crucial difference between today's incident and the tragedy at Pike River
“A gold mine doesn't have methane gas in it so that's the really essential difference, in a coal mine, methane gas is in the seam and it’s an explosive gas,” says mine safety expert Dave Feickert.
The truck underground is expected to burn for another 12 to 24 hours and all operations have been halted on site.
Inspectors will reassess the situation tomorrow
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