NEWS

All Saskatchewan miners safely on surface after fire

09/25/2012 02:18 EDT | Updated 11/25/2012 05:12 EST
Workers at a Saskatchewan potash mine have returned to the surface after spending a day underground in a refuge area, following a fire that broke out in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

The fire was extinguished earlier in the day, but the workers could not return to the surface until air quality tests showed it was safe.

Fifteen workers were in the first group to surface around 7 p.m. CST, a journey that took about 45 minutes.

The last of the miners surfaced around 8:30 p.m.

The fire started at 1:56 a.m. on Tuesday at PotashCorp's Rocanville mine, according to the company.

The miners were able to communicate with the outside and were not in immediate danger, said PotashCorp manager of public affairs Bill Cooper.

No one was injured in the fire, he added.

A mine rescue team spent the morning trying to extinguish the fire.

"Putting a fire out in a mine is much different than putting one out above ground," Cooper said.

"You have to consider the safety of your employees underground and your mine teams and you move as quickly as you can in a safe manner."

Kept in safe room

One of the trapped workers was Ben Mitchell, a 26-year-old mechanic from Birtle, Man.

His fiancée, Nicole Lane, told CBC News that Mitchell called her at around 7:45 a.m. using a phone in the safe room.

"He called and just said that he was safe in there, that he was in there by himself because nobody was … working with him at the time," she said.

"The mine would be calling him every hour to make sure that he was OK."

Originally, there were 29 people underground when the fire broke out, but nine of them were lifted out.

The cause of the fire hasn't been disclosed, but it started when a large wooden spool somehow ignited, Cooper said.

Rocanville is about 230 kilometres east of Regina.

MORE:cbcNews