The long climb to safety: 39 trapped northern Ontario miners expected to be out by midday

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Thirty-three of the 39 miners trapped underground at a mine in northern Ontario have climbed to the surface, with a Vale company spokesperson saying everyone is safe and “happy to see the sunshine,” and the rest expected to join them sometime Tuesday.

Update on mine rescue operation in Worthington, Ont.

Most of the miners who were trapped underground at the Totten Mine in Worthington, Ont., near Sudbury, are now back on the surface, says Shawn Rideout of Ontario Mine Rescue. The operation continues to free those still underground. 7:07

Thirty-three of the 39 miners trapped underground at a mine in northern Ontario have climbed to the surface, and the rest are expected to join them sometime Tuesday.

The workers have been stuck in Totten Mine in the Worthington area of Sudbury since Sunday afternoon, when an accident damaged the elevator — known as a cage — that normally carries them in and out of the mine.

The workers were stuck at levels of between about 914 and 1,219 metres underground. Toronto’s CN Tower, in comparison, is about 550 metres in height.

Mining company Vale announced on Monday night it was “relieved and delighted to see these individuals returning to surface safe and sound.”

Vale spokesperson Danica Pagnutti spoke to one of the miners.

“He was in good spirits and happy to have some pizza to take home and just looking forward to getting home to his family and relaxing, but generally in really good spirits,” she said. 

“The miners are all healthy and eager to go home.”

Vale says 33 of the 39 workers trapped underground at Totten Mine in northern Ontario since Sunday afternoon reached the surface on Monday night. (Radio-Canada)

‘Light at the end of the tunnel’

Shawn Rideout, who is co-ordinating the rescue effort for Ontario Mine Rescue (OMR), said there’s “light at the end of the tunnel” as he expects to have the remaining six on the surface by 11 a.m. ET Tuesday. 

“We are taking it slow so that we’re not pushing anybody past their energy level,” Rideout said. “At this point, they’ve been underground for more than 48 hours, so we are taking it slow.”

The trapped miners are climbing up a series of ladders, some from as far down as 1,200 metres. They will be assisted by OMR officers, one for every miner, and met by medical staff when they reach the surface.

The miners who have already been brought to surface are in good spirits, Rideout said.

“Everybody’s doing fine here … the workers come up, they are obviously happy to see the sunshine. but it’s smiles all around and everything’s progressing very well.”

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