As of early Monday evening, 39 miners at Totten Mine were still making their way up a series of ladders after being trapped about a kilometre underground for more than a day. “All mines have a secondary egress, or exit, for situations where the cage is inoperable,” said Danica Pagnutti, corporate affairs specialist with Vale.
In this case the shaft was damaged by a scoop bucket under the cage, she said, making the normal route to surface impassable. The employees, who punched in Sunday morning, were working in various areas between the 3,000- and 4,000-foot levels, Pagnutti said, when the incident occurred early Sunday afternoon.
The workers were directed to refuge stations, which provide “a safe place in the event of emergencies,” the Vale spokesperson said, and were provided with food and water. “No-one was injured and everyone is safe,” she stressed.
The workers were also able to communicate with loved ones, as the mine — the newest of Vale’s operations — is equipped with an underground LTE network. “So the employees underground can actually call home and let their families know how they are doing,” said Pagnutti. It’s a long climb back to surface, however.
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