Thompson miners safe after underground fire

A fire in the nickel mine at Thompson, Man., trapped dozens of men in safe rooms overnight. Tim Kalushka / Wikimedia Commons

WINNIPEG – All of the miners who were stuck underground after a fire broke out in a Thompson, Man., nickel mine have safely returned to the surface.

The eight miners who were still waiting to be rescued Monday afternoon were safely pulled out by 1:25 p.m., mine owner Vale Inco said.

The fire trapped 39 miners in the Vale Inco nickel mine in Thompson, Man., Sunday night.

The 39 mine employees moved to “refuge stations” after a remotely operated piece of equipment called LHD (load-haul-dump) caught fire at about 3:30 p.m. Sunday at the company’s T1 mine, Vale spokesman Ryan Land said in a news release Monday.

Shanda Skode of Penticton, B.C., said her husband was trapped overnight and she wasn’t happy with the way the company handled the situation.

‘They called me six hours after he was supposed to be back on the surface,” she said.

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Her husband, who she preferred not to name, was supposed to surface at 5 p.m. CT Sunday, and she worried when he didn’t text her as usual and she couldn’t contact him.

“For six hours, I didn’t know where he was,” she said. “I didn’t like how they don’t call the family members.”

Her husband was back at the surface by early afternoon, Skode said. He’s a carpenter and he’s never worked in a mine before, she said — and if she had her way, he’d never go back down.

“After this, I told him he’s coming home,” she said. “I don’t feel safe at all.”

United Steelworkers Local 6166 president Murray Nychyporuk earlier told Global News some of the miners had already returned to the surface.

“Some have come up,” Nychyporuk said of the miners trapped overnight.

There were still 17 miners in safe rooms at 9:30 a.m., but they were expected to be out soon, Nychyporuk said. Some had already left the safe rooms and the mine, but others were waiting for their areas to be declared safe, he explained.

“Our health and safety chair was at the scene,” Nychyporuk said, and the men were able to phone the surface and were safe. “There’s a procedure for all this.”

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Operations at the mine were suspended. The company said work would resume when the fire was confirmed to be extinguished, conditions were safe and the air quality returned to normal.

Thompson is located 650 kilometres north of Winnipeg.

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