39 workers trapped in Canadian mine but evacuation underway

SUDBURY, Ontario (AP) — An operation was underway Monday to evacuate 39 miners trapped underground for more than 24 hours after a mechanical problem blocked the entrance shaft to a mine in northern Ontario.

Mining company Vale said a rescue team had reached the workers, who were in several different “refuges″ between 900 and 1,200 meters underground at the Totten Mine, west of Sudbury, Ontario. No one was injured, the company said.

“We expect everyone to reach the surface by tonight,″ Vale said in a statement.

A statement from the United Steelworkers, the union that represents 30 of the 39 workers trapped in the mine, said it was cautiously optimistic that all would be safely evacuated.

The company said the miners have had access to food, water and medicine.

Vale said the incident happened when a scoop bucket being sent underground Sunday afternoon detached, blocking the mine shaft. As a result, it said, the “conveyance system″ for taking workers to and from the surface could not be used.

“The employees will exit via a secondary egress ladder system with support of Vale’s mine rescue team,″ the company said.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said his thoughts were with the miners.

“We understand this rescue will take some time and are very relieved to hear the miners are currently uninjured,″ he said on Twitter.

Totten Mine opened in 2014 in Worthington, Ontario — the first mine to open in the area in 40 years, according to the company’s website. The mine produces copper, nickel and precious metals and employs about 200 people.

Kalem McSween, a spokesman for the province’s Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development, said in an email that an inspection team would investigate the incident once the rescue operation was finished.

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