The long climb out of Totten – by Angelica Zagorski (CIM Magazine – November 25, 2021)

The evacuation and investigation of the Totten mine incident

his was not your typical mine rescue, Ted Hanley, general manager of Ontario Mine Rescue, recalls thinking when he received a call from Vale’s Totten mine in Sudbury at 2 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 27. At that time, Vale decided it would bring its workers out of the mine via secondary egress after a scoop bucket was slung into the Totten mine and became lodged in the shaft trapping 39 miners at the 650-foot level.

Even though what the miners were doing was common, the incident was not. Hanley said this rescue mission was different because of the atypical use of the ladderways in the mine. Miners are used to climbing 100 to 200 feet to another level, where they can get a ride in a vehicle and travel via a ramp system out or to their next workstation.

Since the conveyance system was out of operation, the miners would have to climb a series of ladders almost the entire way to the surface, 4,130 feet above them. They later determined they were going to be able to hoist people up the last 650 feet.

Hanley said it wasn’t until further along in their evacuation operation that the team realized there was a high likelihood that the miners’ physical capabilities might not be good enough to pull themselves out. The 39 individuals stuck underground had just worked an entire 12-hour shift and had been underground for around 24 hours.

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