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39 Sudbury miners trapped underground since Sunday afternoon

Exiting Vale's Totten Mine via a 'secondary egress ladder system'
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Vale's Totten Mine in Sudbury. (File)

Thirty-nine employees at Vale’s Totten mine who have been stuck underground since Sunday afternoon are exiting the mine via a “secondary egress ladder system” with the support of Vale’s mine rescue team.

This is after the conveyance for transporting employees was taken offline, following an incident in the shaft.

“The employees were underground at the time and immediately went to refuge stations as part of our normal procedures, and we have been in frequent communication with them since the incident,” said a statement from Vale, which also emphasized that the employees are safe.

“We are doing everything we can to ensure the safety of these employees and will provide further updates as they become available.”

Sudbury.com has also obtained a copy of what appears to be a Sept. 27 internal Vale memo, which sheds some more light on the situation.

The memo from Gord Gilpin, head of mining with Vale’s Ontario operations, said a scoop bucket that was being slung underground detached from the conveyance and became hung up in the shaft.

As a result, the conveyance for transporting employees is unavailable.

At the time the memo was written, Vale was trying to decide how best to get the employees out, and mine rescue personnel were preparing to go underground via secondary egress to deliver supplies.

Gilpin said in the memo that Vale was doing risk assessments, drone inspections and planning. The two plans being considered were the use of secondary egress (the plan that is now in motion) and the use of the secondary hoist, which would have required making the shaft safe.

Sudbury.com was contacted by a resident who said her husband is one of the employees trapped underground. She said mine rescue is bringing up two men at a time on a ladder, climbing 2,500 feet, and then taking the cage to surface. The woman said this would take four to six hours. Vale has not confirmed this information.

She said the employees had been underground since 11:30 a.m. Sunday, with no food aside from protein and candy bars brought in by mine rescue.