After a gruelling, half-day, climb up ladders, ascending about 4,000ft, 35 of 39 miners trapped at a mine in northern Canada have made it to the surface.
The miners had become trapped deep underground on Sunday after a scoop bucket detached and blocked the main transport shaft at the Totten mine in northern Ontario. They were forced to scale the network of ladders in secondary shafts, getting the chance to rest every 100 metres.
Ontario Mine Rescue had told reporters that in instances where miners could not complete the climb, ropes could be used to hoist them up.
“Everyone has a different physical ability,” Pascal Boucher, a local union coordinator, told the Sudbury Star as the rescue operation was under way. “We have older senior employees and much younger employees, who could probably climb it faster.”
While they were trapped for more than 35 hours, the miners had access to food, water and medicine, according to Vale, the Brazilian multinational company that owns the mine. They were also able to call family and loved ones.
Shortly before sunrise on Tuesday, the first exhausted miners began appearing at the surface. By late afternoon 35 miners had emerged.
Vale official Gord Gilpin said in a statement the company was “relieved and delighted to see these individuals returning to surface safe and sound” after the climb.
“There is no doubt this was and continues to be an exhausting experience. I commend them on their patience and their resolve,” he said.
Vale spokesperson Danica Pagnutti told CBC News that she spoke with one of the miners who had been trapped underground.
“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.”
The mine, located south-west of Sudbury, first opened in 2014 and produces copper, nickel and precious metals.
Ontario’s labour ministry has said it will investigate the incident.