December fire at Red Lake Mine raises red flags about lithium batteries – by Len Gillis (Northern Ontarion Business – May 13, 2019)

Underground blaze prompts call for new procedures to store, charge batteries for tools

Red flags have been raised about the possibility of lithium ion tool batteries catching fire in industrial settings, such as mines. Newmont Goldcorp’s Red Lake Gold Mines reported that an underground fire took place Dec. 6 when three workers went to get their tools on the 4400 level storage area.

“When the workers arrived, they smelled smoke,” said mine rescuer Loye Halteman at a recent safety conference in Sudbury.

One of the workers was sent back to a refuge station to notify security to “stench the mine,” thus releasing stench gas, a foul-smelling gas used to alert miners of impending danger.

The two other workers entered the storage area with a couple of 10-pound fire extinguishers to investigate. They discovered a large area of flame by one wall.

“The workers attempted to extinguish the fire with the fire extinguishers. It increased the smoke and they couldn’t put it out,” said Halteman. The fire was inside a storage bay behind an eight-foot-high steel partition wall. It was being fueled by a stack of lithium batteries and chargers used for hand-held power tools.

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