WAIHI, NEW ZEALAND (BNO NEWS) -- Rescue teams in northern New Zealand successfully pulled out all 28 workers who were trapped at a gold mine after a fire broke out underground, local authorities said on Tuesday. There were no injuries.
The incident began at approximately 5 a.m. local time when a truck engine caught fire at the Trio mine in the North Island town of Waihi, located in Hauraki District. The mine is owned by the Denver-based Newmont Mining Corporation, a gold producer with operations and exploration projects around the world.
The mine's ventilation system pumped smoke through the mine and it could be seen coming out of the mine's vent shaft. "As per procedure all underground personnel went to refuge chambers and reported by phone to surface," a Newmont Waihi Gold spokesperson said.
The three refuge chambers, which are located in different parts of the hardrock goldmine, have each a capacity for 20 workers and is equipped with water, oxygen, lighting and chemical toilets. All mining operations at the mine were immediately halted and there was never a risk of a mine explosion.
Three Newmont Waihi Gold mine rescue teams, each with six members, carried out the evacuations with no assistance required from emergency services. Thirteen men from the first two refuge chambers were evacuated shortly before 10 a.m. local time while the remaining fifteen from the third refugee chamber were back at the surface just before noon.
"We constantly practice these scenarios. We have the equipment and we have skilled and trained mine rescue teams," said General Manager Glen Grindlay. "Our mine follows both New Zealand and Australian mining regulations and standards. Our systems worked well and everyone is safe."
It was not immediately known what caused Tuesday's fire, which will be allowed to burn out. "Fires like the one yesterday can smolder for a day or two. Because of the risk of tires exploding, the best thing to do is just leave them to burn out, rather than attempt to put them out," Grindlay said on early Wednesday morning.
Operations at the Trio mine are likely to reopen later this week, he added.
In November 2010, several explosions ripped through the Pike River Mine in the West Coast Region of New Zealand's South Island, killing 29 miners in the country's worst such disaster in nearly 100 years. A deadlier mine accident happened in September 1914 at Ralph's Mine in Huntly, killing 43 miners.
Years earlier, on March 26, 1896, sixty-five miners were killed at the Brunner Mine near Brunner when an explosion rocked the mine. Some of the victims died as a result of the blast, while others died of the poisonous gases that followed. It was the worst mining disaster in New Zealand's history.
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