“The ascent has begun,” Jeff Lewis, a spokesperson for Vale, the Brazilian company that owns the mine, was quoted as saying by the Toronto Star. “We expect all 39 to be on the surface tonight.”
The workers in Totten mine in Sudbury, Ontario, were trapped around a kilometre underground on Sunday after a scoop bucket fell and lodged itself in the shaft. As a result, the conveyance system that normally brings the employees working in the mine to the surface could not be used. The mining company in a statement said that all the workers are safe, uninjured and have access to food, water and medicine.
A ladder system that was put in place as a backup for the workers to escape is being used to rescue them. “The employees will exit via a secondary egress ladder system with support of Vale’s mine rescue team,” the company said.
However, they had to be supplied with additional support for them to ascend safely, reported the Toronto Star. “We have harnesses for the guys to wear and what we’re doing is using that to assist them in their evacuation so that they don’t fall off a ladder,” Shawn Rideout, Chief Mine Rescue Officer from Ontario Mine Rescue was quoted as saying by the news site.
The miners had climbed about 960 metres as of 9 pm local time and the organisation is expecting the first four out of the mine before midnight, reported the news organisation.
United Steelworkers, a union that represents 30 of the 39 workers trapped, said that it was cautiously optimistic that all the miners would be safely evacuated.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford said his thoughts were with the miners.
“We understand this rescue will take some time and are very relieved to hear the miners are currently uninjured,” he tweeted.
Kalem McSween, a spokesperson for the province’s Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development, told AP that an inspection team would probe the incident once the rescue operation was over.
Additional reporting from wires