Underground fire 'business as usual' for Saskatchewan miners
Published Wednesday, September 26, 2012 8:12AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, September 26, 2012 10:09AM EDT
A group of Saskatchewan miners who spent 17 hours trapped underground due to a fire say risk is just part of the job and they plan to return to work on Friday.
The fire broke out in PotashCorp’s Rocanville mine in eastern Saskatchewan at around 2 a.m. Tuesday when a wooden cable spool caught fire, filling the tunnels with smoke.
Rescuers were able to get nine miners safely to the surface, but 20 others were forced to gather in four refuge stations about one kilometre below the surface. They waited for 17 hours until the fire was out and smoke was ventilated, allowing them to return to the surface.
CTV National News correspondent Jill Macyshon said the miners were relieved to exit the mine, but weren’t overly concerned about their ordeal.
“One man, as he emerged, said ‘It’s business as usual, it’s part of the job,’” Macyshon reported.
“That’s the kind of mentality I think these guys have to have, it’s kind of like war training when you go under there, when you’re closed off from people, sunlight and the outside world for so long.”
Darwyn Wirth, one of the 20 miners who had been trapped, knew exactly what he wanted to do Tuesday night as he finally made it above ground.
"I think I'm going to go and have a cold beer," he told reporters.
In 2006 at a potash mine in Esterhazy, Sask, 72 miners were trapped underground for 32 hours due to a fire in the shaft. Their reaction was similar to that of the Rocanville miners, Macyshon said.
“They emerged with basically the same attitude. They were glad to be out, they followed all the safety precautions and they were glad to be going home,” Macyshon said.
The trapped Rocanville miners had been on schedule to work the night shift starting Tuesday evening, but will now get a short break until Friday when they will go back underground, Macyshon told CTV’s Canada AM.
Terry Daniel, PotashCorp's mill operations superintendent, said it’s still unclear why the fire was sparked but officials will conduct a full investigation.
“What ignited it, the course of the investigation will reveal,” he said. “I can’t even being to speculate at this point.”
The Rocanville mine is about one kilometre below the ground and its tunnels spread out horizontally for 16 kilometres.