Updated Sept. 28 at 8:51 p.m.
Rescue efforts continue for the remaining four workers who are still underground at Vale’s Totten Mine, states a release from the United Steelworkers Union (USW) Local 6500, which represents many of the miners who were evacuated. As Sudbury.com reported earlier in the day, 35 of 39 stranded workers have been safely evacuated over the course of the last 48 hours and are now resting at home.
“This is a complex situation, with every precaution being taken to ensure the safety and well-being of the workers and those involved in the evacuation effort,” said Nick Larochelle, president. “Rescue efforts are ongoing and the families of the remaining four workers are being regularly updated.”
The 35 workers who were able to exit the mine did so through a secondary egress ladder system after the primary exit was rendered inoperable due to damage to the shaft on Sunday morning. A total of 39 miners headed to several refuge stations between 900 metres and 1,200 metres below ground after the incident, which meant that exiting the mine required them to climb a series of ladders of approximately 1,200 metres (1.2 kilometres).
“We thank the mine rescue crews who have been working since Sunday to safely evacuate these workers, we thank the miners for their patience and endurance, their families and the larger community who have rallied behind us during this difficult situation,” said Larochelle.
A press conference previously announced by the union is postponed until Wednesday, September 29, at a time to be determined.
Updated Sept. 28 at 4:20 p.m.: Vale is reporting that 35 of the 39 miners stranded underground since Sunday have now returned to the surface at Totten Mine, two more since Sudbury.com reported 33 had surfaced by 11:26 a.m.
All 35 exited the mine through a secondary egress ladder system after the primary exit was rendered inoperable due to damage to the shaft on Sunday morning. The 39 miners headed to several refuge stations between 900 metres and 1,200 metres below ground, meaning some had to climb considerable distances — in some instances 2,500 feet — to reach a point where they could be transported to the surface.
In a release from the company, Vale states that communication and support to employees was provided throughout the ascent by a team of 58 responders from Vale's Mine Rescue team and Ontario Mine Rescue, who are overseeing the extraction effort.
Both immediate on-site medical support was available to all employees upon reaching the service, as well as Vale’s Critical Incident Stress Management team offering mental health support. Vale is reporting that the employees that have surfaced are “healthy and eager to return home to family”.
Updated Sept. 28 at 11:26 a.m.
As work continues to get stranded Vale miners to the surface, Sudbury.com has learned that 33 miners are now above ground.
Mayor Brian Bigger confirmed the information this morning.
His report comes directly from Vale, and the mayor reported that city hall is receiving hourly updates in order to ensure that any help that can be offered by the city is arranged quickly and efficiently.
"My role as mayor is to ensure that any support that Vale and their mine rescue teams require is in place for them," Bigger said. "We're not expecting any significant challenges here, but obviously, there'll be a great relief when everyone is back on surface."
Some of the miners have now been underground for more than 48 hours, said Bigger, but he is confident that the focus is the safe rescue of all involved. "I am sure very sure that everyone in the community is watching very closely to ensure that everyone comes back to surface in a safe manner," said Bigger. "And I know they will return to extra hugs as they return to their family and friends. I wish the miners and their families and friends peace of mind following this ordeal."
Updated Sept. 28 at 11:15 a.m.
More than 30 of the miners have now returned to the surface, Sudbury.com has learned. More to come.
Vale says employees continue to return to the surface at its Totten Mine in Sudbury this morning following the successful ascent of several individuals overnight.
On Sunday, 39 employees were unable to exit the mine due to damage in the shaft that houses the conveyance used to transport employees between surface and underground, the press release said. While conditions in the shaft were evaluated, employees reported to underground refuge stations as part of the company’s standard procedures.
Monday evening, employees started making their way to surface via a secondary egress ladderway system. Nineteen employees returned to surface early this morning and the remainder are on their way.
“We thank the impacted employees for their patience and perseverance and the mine rescue teams for their tireless dedication and support,” said Gord Gilpin, Head of Mining Operations for Vale’s Ontario Operations, in a press release. “This has been an incredible team effort.”
The remaining employees are expected to be on surface later this morning. The employees that have returned to surface are in good health and eager to return home, the press release said.
The employees’ exit is being supported by Vale’s mine rescue team and Ontario Mine Rescue.