A year ago, 39 miners at Vale’s Totten Mine in the Sudbury, Ont. area were trapped underground for four days when a scoop bucket got jammed in the main shaft.
It all started Sept. 26, 2021, and there were many anxious moments before all of them — 38 men and one woman — climbed or were pulled up 1,800 feet to get out — the equivalent of the CN Tower.
“A year went by pretty quickly (because) it does seem like not that long ago,” said Shawn Rideout, of Ontario Mine Rescue.
“(It) seems like a few weeks ago when we were sitting in conference rooms and discussing how we were going to evacuate 39 workers from Totten Mine. It seems unrealistic that we were working solid for between 40 and 72 hours to get these workers up safe to their families.”
In a statement, a Vale spokesperson said they are glad things are back to normal.
“This is thanks to a lot of hard work, determination and a steadfast commitment to safety by our employees,” the statement from Jeffrey Lewis said.
“We have now implemented new controls for slinging equipment at underground mines — an important change that reflects our commitment to continuous learning and safety.”
Rideout said the whole operation was a huge success thanks to those involved leaning heavily on their training.
“Probably one of the best lessons I learned is to always keep extra socks with me,” Rideout said.
“(After) 16 to 18 hours in a pair of socks, it’s the little luxuries that you wish you had with you. But, more seriously, that whole operation, whole mission, went very successfully and it’s because … training that we provide that prepares these rescuers for what they’re going to encounter. It’s really reassuring for us that we’re on the right path and we’re preparing our volunteers and mine rescue officers for any challenge that they might see.
The training has only increased since the ordeal took place, Rideout said.
“Most recently, we just all signed off on our (National Fire Protection Association) fire courses,” he said.
“We did advanced cardiac life support courses, so we turned a bunch of miners into nearly doctors. So we’re really advancing their knowledge and they’ve really accepted that challenge and are truly excelling at it.”
Rideout said it’s only fitting that one year later, he and his team are in Edmonton attending a symposium sharing their knowledge and experience surrounding rope rescue.