Smoke traps 54 PotashCorp miners

Reuters — Forty-seven miners were reported to be trapped underground in one of PotashCorp’s Saskatchewan potash mines as of Thursday afternoon, but the company said the workers were safe and it expected to rescue them soon.

Fire started around 4 p.m. local time on Wednesday in a water truck inside PotashCorp’s Allan, Sask. mine, said company spokesman Bill Johnson. Ninety-six workers were sent to underground refuge stations while a crew entered the mine and extinguished the fire.

The crew cleared the air of smoke enough to get nearly half of the workers out of the mine late Wednesday night. But 54 workers remained in refuge stations on the east side of the mine where smoke is still in the air. CBC reported Thursday afternoon that seven of the 54 had returned to the surface while 47 others remain underground.

Some fans were damaged in the fire, resulting in a longer process to clear smoke.

“It’s our hope that we’ll get (the trapped miners) up very shortly, but we’re certainly being very cautious in waiting until we’re sure the air quality is good enough to move everyone,” Johnson said.

The mine stopped production when the fire started. The company will assess the situation after workers are rescued before deciding when to restart mining, he said.

PotashCorp is the world’s second-biggest producer of potash, mainly used for fertilizer. Allan is the company’s largest mine by mining depth (1,040 metres) and nameplate capacity (four million tonnes).

— Reporting for Reuters by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg. Includes files from AGCanada.com Network staff.

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