Monday, January 30, 2006

Trapped Saskatchewan Miners Rescued

If Saskatchewan, Canada, can give such a high priority to mine safety that 72 men trapped by an underground fire can all be saved, without even serious injuries, why can't West Virginia, USA?

All 72 workers trapped in a Saskatchewan potash mine have been rescued after spending more than 24 hours trapped by a fire deep below the earth's surface.

The final five workers, who were farthest from the escape route, reached the surface at around 8 a.m. CT.

"It really is a good news story," Marshall Hamilton, spokesman for mine owner Mosaic Company, told CTV Newsnet Monday.

"It's because of the training of our people that we're happy to report that everybody is safe."
The miners, most of whom are employed by contractor Dynatech, were trapped when fire broke out in polyethylene piping nearly a kilometre underground at the K2 Mosaic Mine near Esterhazy, Sask., at about 3 a.m. CT on Sunday.

When toxic smoke began to fill the tunnels, the miners retreated to so-called safe rooms -- spacious chambers that can be sealed off and are equipped with supplies of oxygen, food and water.

Within two hours, rescue teams were mobilized, each going into the mine for a few hours at a time.

"The safe thing to do and the procedure we've established is in the event you see smoke you immediately retreat to one of the refuge stations and once you're there, seal yourself off," Hamilton added.

"In those refuge stations, the workers can seal themselves in with enough oxygen and food and water to be comfortable for the next 36 hours at least."
Miner Greg Harris said he was never really concerned about his safety as he played a makeshift game of checkers with colleagues while they waited to be rescued.

He and his friends drew the checkerboard on the back of a map and used washers as playing pieces.

"Everything is good," an exhausted Harris told The Canadian Press from his home Monday afternoon. "Communication was excellent. We had no problems whatsoever."

Meanwhile, Hamilton praised the rescue efforts, saying everything had gone according to plan.

"You would be hard pressed to find a mining operation anywhere in the world that has a better safety record than Mosaic here in Esterhazy," Hamilton told reporters.

It's shameful that in this country, mine owners are allowed to put profit before safety and get away with ignoring hundreds of safety violations.

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