Lockerby Mine fire under investigation – by Carol Mulligan (Sudbury Star – February 19, 2015)

The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.

A fire underground Monday at First Nickel Inc.’s Lockerby Mine, in which no one was injured, illustrates the effectiveness of procedures and protocols in place in Ontario to react to emergencies underground, says the company’s vice-president.

Officials at First Nickel and with the Ministry of Labour are investigating the cause of a fire detected Monday about 11 a.m. on a conveyor belt in a small space of the mine in which no one was working at the time.

Vern Baker, FNI vice-president of Sudbury operations, said the fire drove more than 30 employees who were working underground to refuge stations, where they remained for 61/2 hours.

Flames were evident when mine rescue teams showed up and they put the fire out with water, said Baker. “The problem almost always in a mine is not the flame,” said Baker. “The problem is the smoke. That’s where the real danger for most of us is.”

While company officials don’t know what caused one of several conveyor belts at the nickel mine to catch fire, they have ruled it was not caused by electricity or “by a person,” said Baker.

He suspects it was some type of friction into the feed that is moved on the belts that caused it. It will be difficult to determine the cause of the fire, he said, because the fire damage in the area.

The fire isn’t expected to affect production.

Baker was underground when the fire was detected and he was one of the workers who took to refuge stations. Mine management on surface brought in mine rescue teams that quickly doused the fire.

Those on surface also called the designates of those underground to tell them the situation was under control.

“We have a very clear set of procedures, and Ontario as a whole has a very good mine rescue program. The (Sudbury) basin, of course, has very good teams. We did things according to our procedures and protocol, and everything worked out just the way we expected,” said Baker.

A mine rescue team from Glencore was dispatched and was a great help, he said. He said the company is doing a thorough investigation to understand exactly what happened.

While procedures and protocols are in place, “there are things that happen you’re not expecting.”

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