Trapped miners rescued from 900 feet underground

January 8, 2016 4:00 pm

 The fourth group of workers emerge after they were stuck overnight in the Cayuga Salt Mine. Photo / AP

Seventeen miners trapped in one of the world’s deepest salt mines
were rescued Thursday morning, ending a 10-hour ordeal that began when
their elevator broke down 900 feet underground.
The workers were
descending to the floor of the 2,300-foot-deep Cayuga Salt Mine in
Lansing, N.Y. – nearly deep enough to fit two Empire State Buildings
stacked on top of each other – to start their shift when the elevator
malfunctioned at around 10 p.m. Wednesday, said Mark Klein, a spokesman
for mine owner Cargill Inc.
With temperatures in the elevator
shaft in the teens – the same as the surface – the miners were cold but
otherwise unharmed, said Shawn Wilczynski, the mine manager.
“Their
spirits are tremendous. I’m inspired by them, to be quite honest with
you,” Wilczynski said. “The first four that came out of the mine waited
until the last two came out.”

Emergency workers communicated via radio with the miners, who had blankets, heat packs and other supplies lowered to them.
The
rescued workers ranged in age from 20 to 60, and their mining
experience ranged from a few months to four decades, Wilczynski said.
A
crane hoisted the first four to the surface in a basket around 7 a.m.
at the mine in Lansing, about 40 miles outside Syracuse. Another four
were rescued about 30 minutes later, and seven more were brought to the
surface by 8:30 a.m., Klein said. The last two were rescued a few
minutes afterward.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo praised the emergency
personnel who carried out the rescue, adding that a team of
investigators from several state offices will be looking into what
caused the miners to become stranded.
The mine, which Klein said
is the deepest salt mine in the Western Hemisphere, produces road salt
that is shipped throughout the Northeastern United States. The mine is
located on the shore of Cayuga Lake and extends beneath its waters.
Minneapolis-based
Cargill bought the mine in 1970 and employs 200 workers there, Klein
said. The mine processes about 2 million tons of road salt annually,
making it one of the biggest producers in the U.S., Cargill said.
Mining
operations will be shut down for the rest of the week as company
officials and federal mine safety inspectors investigate the
malfunctioning, Klein said.
“We want to take a step back, check things out,” he said.
The crane used to rescue the workers had to be brought in by a rigging company in Auburn, 30 miles away.
According
to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, a wide swath of
upstate New York stretching from the Syracuse area to the western Finger
Lakes region is underlain by what’s known as the Salina formation,
which contains about 3.9 trillion metric tons of rock salt ranging in
depth from 500 feet to 4,000 feet. The Cargill mine is the larger of two
salt mines operating in the region. The other is American Rock Salt’s
mine, located 35 miles south of Rochester.
New York is the nation’s third-largest producer of rock salt after Louisiana and Texas.
The
last serious accident at the mine occurred on the surface in March
2010, when a 150-ton salt bin collapsed, killing a contract truck driver
and injuring another man, Klein said. The U.S. Mine Safety and Health
Administration later determined a piece of the bin corroded and caused
it to give way.

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