Long day ends with rescue [Saskatchewan potash mine fire] – by Kerry Benjoe and Terrence McEachern (Saskatoon Star Phoenix – September 26, 2012)posted in Canadian/International Media Resource Articles, Saskatchewan Mining |
After more than 16 hours trapped underground at the Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan mine in Rocanville, Darwyn Wirth admitted he was tired. And that he wanted a cold beer.
Wirth, a shift electrician with Potash-Corp from Churchbridge, was one of 15 miners brought to the surface at 6: 42 p.m. on Tuesday. His shift started just over a day earlier at 6: 30 p.m. on Monday. At 1: 56 a.m. Tuesday morning his normal work day was interrupted when a fire broke out in the mine.
Twenty-nine miners were midway through their 12-hour shift when the fire alarm sounded. Nine miners were immediately evacuated, however the remaining 20 men sought safety in four refuge shelters throughout the mine. At 8: 15 p.m., the remaining five miners were brought to the surface.
The area where the fire broke out was 15 kilometres from the main Rocanville site and the shaft where workers enter and exit the underground mine. Wirth was the first person to spot the fire. He said at no point was he worried and described the experience as being “delayed” rather than trapped.
While confined in the refuge shelter, the miners passed the time by talking to each other and their families above ground.
Also underground was Courtney Ryan, a mine production supervisor and rescue captain from Tantallon. He helped put out the fire.
“It was nice to get it done and the group home,” said Ryan.
It had been 15 years since the PotashCorp. mine in Rocanville experienced a fire.
Terry Daniel, mill operations superintendent, said safety is No. 1 at the mine and was happy to report no injuries in the blaze.
Daniel said all staff is well trained in procedures so as soon as the fire was reported, emergency response procedures were initiated.
“Mine rescue is a deliberate process and these guys, it takes time, because they are trained to do it in a systematic way,” said Daniel. “Part of that system is that they have to wait until things are clear and they want to make sure that they got things extinguished. We really care about those people in the refuge stations and we would love to bring them to surface, but there is no sense of urgency for them … because they are safe and secure.”
He explained the refuge shelters are equipped to sustain 15 people for 72 hours.
The shelters are large sealed rooms equipped with food, water, playing cards and washroom facilities.
Daniel said the fire occurred in an area of the mine that’s currently under construction.
For the rest of this article, please go to the Saskatoon Star Phoenix website: http://www.thestarphoenix.com/news/Long+ends+with+rescue/7299590/story.html