All 39 miners now safe after rescue out of Sudbury, Ont. mine

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All 39 miners trapped in mine near Sudbury, Ont. ‘safe and sound’
WATCH ABOVE: Vale's Ontario operations head of mining Gord Gilpin confirmed during a press conference on Wednesday that all 39 of the miners trapped below the surface of the Totten Mine near Sudbury, Ont. are rescued and "safe and sound". – Sep 29, 2021

All 39 miners who originally became trapped underground at the Totten Mine in Sudbury, Ont., on Sunday have been rescued and are safe, the company that owns the mine confirmed.

Vale said the last four miners who were climbing their way to the surface on Tuesday reached the top by early Wednesday.

“This is tremendous news flowing from very difficult circumstances,” Vale CEO Eduardo Bartolomeo said in a statement.

“All of us at Vale were focused on and committed to the safe return of our employees underground.”

The company’s Ontario mining operations head said Vale will take a “step-by-step” approach to understand what happened at the Totten Mine. He said step one includes ensuring everyone made it to the surface safely.

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“We do need to move into a number of other steps to understand why this happened and make sure that we put measures in place to ensure that it never happens again, which is a process that will take time and cooperation through a joint investigation,” said Gord Gilpin, the head of mining operations for Vale in Ontario, at a press conference Wednesday.

The investigation will also lead to conclusions and recommendations that will help to make sure that a similar incident never happens again, said Nick Larochelle, the president of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 6500, the union that represents 30 of 39 miners.

Vale spokesperson Jeff Lewis said the last miner reached the surface shortly before 5 a.m. He said the final four workers who climbed to the top are in “good spirits” and “happy to be back with loved ones.”

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Gilpin said the rescue efforts spanned more than two days because the 39 miners were at different locations in the mine.

“The main driver behind that … was that we made sure that every single employee had the support they required in order to make it to surface safely,” he told reporters.

“We’re not going to sequence it in single file sequentially. It’s staged, it’s organized, and there are deliberate steps and phases as we work through it.”

In order to reach the surface, the 39 miners had to climb a system of ladders. They were helped along the way by a recovery crew, which was composed of 58 responders from Vale’s rescue team and Ontario Mine Rescue.

The workers became stuck underground on Sunday after a scoop bucket being sent underground detached and blocked the shaft that houses the elevator that transports people from the surface to underground.

“What our mine rescue team was initially primarily focused on was outfitting these ladders with appropriate gear to ensure that we had the appropriate level of fall protection for our employees as they made their way up,” Gilpin said.

“The principle that we stood by as we worked through this was to make sure that we took the time and steps necessary to get properly prepared to bring everyone up safely.”

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Larochelle said climbing ladders is not typically part of miners’ normal routines, which is why a medical team was assessing workers when they reached the surface.

“The medical team made an initial assessment when they got to surface,” he added. “They’re continuing to be monitored until the next three or four days, and then we’ll know the extent of the struggles they had to get up to surface.”

Gilpin said Vale needs to do some work to understand the impact of the incident on the Totten Mine, though he said it’s “significant.”

The mine is shut down and anywhere under the surface is off-limits until the company is able to understand what needs to be done, Gilpin added.

Ontario’s Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development said an inspection team will investigate the incident.

Totten Mine opened in 2014 in Worthington, Ont., and produces copper, nickel and precious metals. It employs about 200 people.

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— With files from The Canadian Press

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