April 5, 2015 2:44 pm
Updated: August 6, 2016 1:23 pm

Explosion at Greenhills coal mine near Elkford, B.C. sends 3 to hospital


WATCH: An explosion at a coal mine in southeastern BC has sent three people to hospital. It happened this morning at a mine near Elkford. Nadia Stewart reports.

Three people were sent to hospital after an explosion at the Greenhills coal mine outside Elkford, B.C.

The blast happened in the pulverizing room, where coal is ground for combustion, on the morning of April 5. Two men and a woman outside the room at the time of the explosion were taken to hospital to be treated for third-degree burns and smoke inhalation.

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Interior Health says one victim was sent to hospital in Fernie while two others were sent to Sparwood.

By mid-afternoon, one person had been discharged while two remained in hospital. Of the two still in hospital, one was transferred by air ambulance from Sparwood to the Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary with serious but non-life threatening burn injuries. The other was still in a B.C. hospital, but Interior Health told Global News they are likely to be transferred to Calgary as well.

A statement from Teck Resources Ltd., which operates the Greenhills mine, says “the cause of the incident is not known at this time.”

Al Hoffman, Chief Inspector with the province’s Ministry of Energy and Mines, said two inspectors arrived at the mine Sunday and started investigating what caused the fire.<

“We may have to send more specialists, depending on what we think the ignition source was.”

Hoffman said flash fires like the one in the Greenhills incident were a part of most coal mining operations.

“It’s not uncommon to have small operational-type explosions or what they call ‘pops’ at one of these dryer plants,” he said.

“They’ll want to determine why there was coal dust in the air and what ignited it.”

He said it could take several days or weeks to answer that.

“The good thing is, luckily no one was killed,” he said.

“We’re always concerned when workers are injured and we’ll be working very hard to determine what the causes of the incident were.”

According to Teck’s website, Greenhills is located eight kilometres north of Elkford and “coal mined at Greenhills is used to produce steel.”

In 2012, Greenhills, which consists of 11,806 hectares of coal lands, reported $845 million in revenue, making it the fourth largest mine in B.C. at the time.

The mine was temporarily closed in 2010 due to an explosion in a coal dryer. Four people suffered minor injuries stemming from smoke inhalation.

-with files from Canadian Press

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