Fifteen New Zealand miners remain trapped in three refuge areas underground at a Newmont Waihi gold mine on Tuesday. The 15 are part of a group of 28 miners deployed at the site. Thirteen of the workers have escaped the blaze.
Mineworkers underground at Harmony Gold Mine's Cooke shaft near Johannesburg, September 22, 2005.
Reports said a truck engine caught fire at about 5 a.m. which sounded the fire alarm underground. Newmont said all miners have been accounted for and mine officials are in contact with the 15 remaining trapped workers.
The firm said the miners followed procedure in seeking refuge at safety chambers where there are oxygen masks and first aid equipment. Newmont said in cases of fire, the procedure is for trapped miners to wait it out for those deployed in gold mines, but the procedure is to immediately leave for those in coal mines.
Reports said smoke continues to come out from the vent. A mining safety expert pointed out that vehicles used in mine usually have a lot of fuel on board. The trucks used at Waihi were the type that could carry between 80 to 100 tonnes of soil.
Newmont has an 18-member mine rescue unit that is part of the mining company's emergency response plan. One team is in the mine, two are on stand-by at the surface. The New Zealand Mines Rescue Service is also on stand-by.
The firm halted all operations at the Waihi Trio Mine. Since it is a hardrock mine, there is small risk of a gas explosion, Newmont said.
Denver, Colorado-based Newmont Mining Corporation owns Newmont Waihi Gold, which has a total of 350 employees. Mining is due to end at the Trio mine in 2014. Besides Trio, Newmont also operates the Favona and Martha mines in the area.
Newmont miners conduct underground work in shifts 24 hours a daily, although the firm limits the maximum number of miners at any given time to 72 miners for safety reasons.
The gold extracted from Newmont mines are sent to the Perth Mint in Western Australia where it is separated into gold and silver, and the impurities removed. The final output is sold by Newmont Denver at the London gold spot market.
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