Miners hole up in refuge stations after Easter equipment fire

Thirty-nine employees at T-1 mine spent more than 12 hours holed up in refuge stations April 5-6 after a remotely operated piece of equipment caught fire at T1 mine on Easter Sunday, Vale’s Manitoba Operations reported Monday morning.

All those employees were back on surface by early afternnoon April 6, said Ryan Land, manager of corporate affairs and organizational development for Vale's Manitoba Operations, with the first seven returning to surface by 7 a.m., 24 of the remaining 32 by noon and the last eight by 1:25 p.m.

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Land confirmed that there were no injuries and all workers were accounted for.

"A fire watch has been initiated as a standard practice," said Land in an email at 1:36 p.m. April 6. "We expect to be back to full production later today. We will carry out a joint investigation with United Steelworkers Local 6166 in order to understand the incident, continue to manage risk, and prevent recurrence. While the interruption to production and the damage to equipment are unfortunate, we are reassured that our fire and rescue procedures worked and we achieved zero harm to our people, who will be returning safely to their homes and families today."

Workers in the adjoining T3 mine were also moved to refuge stations as a precaution when the fire broke out about 3:30 p.m. April 5, but were released by 10 p.m. that night.

The fire began when an LHD (load-haul-dump) machine caught fire at the 2802 Complex of T1 mine while being operated by remote inside of a production block. Fire and emergency procedures were initiated, with stench gas released to alert workers in the mine. who were all moved to refuge stations.

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