06/09/2011 09:05 EDT | Updated 08/09/2011 05:12 EDT

Vale Mine Deaths In Sudbury: Two Workers Killed In Ontario Mine

Sudbury Mine

THE CANADIAN PRESS -- Two miners have been killed in an underground accident in Sudbury, Ont., after being overrun by material known as "muck."

Jon Treen, a spokesman for Vale's Stobie mine, says the two were working in an ore pass around 10 p.m. Wednesday when they were overtaken by the loose rock material.

It took rescuers 80 minutes to reach the location 900 metres underground and even longer to recover the miners. They were pronounced dead at the scene.

"We had 16 tremendous individuals last night put in a valiant and strong effort," Treen said Thursday of the rescue team. "All of our members are excellent."

"I'm not sure exactly when they were called, but by about an hour and 20 minutes after the incident they were already on site and going underground."

The families have been notified but the names of the victims have not been released.

Treen said one had worked with the company 11 years, while the other had six years of service.

The accident is being investigated by police, the Ministry of Labour, Vale and the United Steelworkers Local 6500.

“This is a devastating loss and our thoughts and prayers go out to the families, friends and co-workers of these employees,” said Treen, who is Vale's general manager of Ontario operations.

“We are concentrating our efforts on supporting the families and our employees at the mine site, and on investigating the incident to understand exactly what occurred.”

An ore pass is an area in the mine where ore is dropped from one level to another.

Sixty workers on the night shift were underground when the two miners were killed. The others were brought to the surface and accounted for.

Shifts at the site have been cancelled for today and tonight, and counsellors are available for co-workers of the victims.

The last mining tragedy at Vale's operations in Sudbury was in 2006, when a worker on a scoop tram was crushed by equipment.