Image: Mine
Troy Fleece  /  AP
The K2 Potash Mine site near Esterhazy, Saskatchewan, where miners were trapped.
msnbc.com news services
updated 1/30/2006 2:07:49 PM ET 2006-01-30T19:07:49

Rescuers retrieved all 72 central Canadian potash miners who were trapped underground by a fire and survived until Monday by using oxygen, food and water stored in subterranean emergency chambers.

The first group of miners was rescued early Monday.

The miners were trapped early Sunday when a fire started in polyethylene piping more than a half-mile underground, filling the tunnels with toxic smoke and prompting the miners to take refuge in the sealed emergency rooms.

When toxic smoke began to fill the tunnels, the miners retreated to so-called refuge stations — spacious chambers that can be sealed off and are equipped with supplies of oxygen, food and water.

Thirty-two miners were brought to the surface at about 3:30 a.m., said Mosaic Co., which owns the mine. Another 35 emerged a few hours later. No serious injuries were reported.

“They are glad to be on the surface,” said Brian Hagan, director of health and safety for Dynatech, the contractor that employed the miners. “They protected themselves and that is what they are trained to do.”

'Our training came through'
Rob Dyck, one of the members of the rescue team, said the fire created a lot of smoke.

“It was hot, dusty, but our training came through,” Dyck said. “We’ve been in smoke before, but probably nothing this complicated.”

The miners were not exposed to the smoke, Hagan said.

“A lot of them said they had a good sleep down there in the refuge station,” he said. “They were pretty calm. They had water, they had food, they had all the stuff that they needed.”

The mine, which was Saskatchewan’s first potash operation when it opened in 1962, is located about 125 miles northeast of Regina.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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