September 29, 2021

-Global News

SUDBURY, Ont. — The last four miners trapped deep below the surface in the Totten Mine near Sudbury, Ont. climbed their way to safety early Wednesday morning, the company that owns the mine said.

Vale said the rescue operation that saw 39 workers climb a series of ladders is complete.

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

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

The last miner reached the surface shortly before 5 a.m., said company spokesman Jeff Lewis.

“Everyone is elated,” Lewis said.

“The final four are in good spirits and happy to be back with loved ones.”

He said the last miner was taken away in an ambulance as a precautionary measure, but “walked onto the ambulance and was giving fist bumps to the mine rescue team in the warm room.”

The CEO of the Brazilian company, who was at the mine, praised the team that saved the workers.

“I’d like to congratulate our rescue team,” said Vale CEO Eduardo Bartolomeo in a statement.

“Bringing our 39 employees home safe and healthy was our top priority and we’re glad that our emergency plans and procedures worked to deliver that outcome. All the employees are safe now and deserve our deep respect for their perseverance and strong will.”

The workers became trapped in the mine on Sunday when a scoop bucket being sent underground detached and blocked the mine shaft.

Some of the miners were trapped as deep as 1,200 metres below the surface, the company said.

They had to scale a series of ladders to climb out of the mine and were helped along by a rescue crew.

The rescue operation began on Monday night.

A team of 58 responders from the company’s rescue team and the Ontario Mine Rescue agency helped the trapped workers through their long trek up the ladder system, the company said.

Bartolomeo said the company will launch an investigation into what happened “so that the company can learn from it and take steps to ensure it never happens again.”

Vale said the workers stayed in underground “refuge stations” and had access to food, water and medicine before climbing out.

The province’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.