Tuesday, January 3, 2006

Three miners have escaped uninjured after being trapped underground by a mineshaft fire on Tasmania’s west coast. The men took shelter in a chamber more than a kilometre underground. A worker noticed smoke coming from a shaft at Avebury nickel mine on Trial Harbour Road near Zeehan at 7.45am.

The blaze started after a truck working 400 metres underground toppled and caught fire. It took nearly five hours for rescue teams to bring the blaze under control, move the burning truck and reach the trapped miners.

Allegiance Mining chairman Tony Howland-Rose said the workers were safe. “The emergency response procedures in place at Avebury were activated and resulted in the vehicle fire being extinguished and the safe rescue of the miners,” Mr Howland-Rose said.

Ambulance crews say the men appear to be in good health. Queenstown Police Inspector Mark Beech-Jones says rescue workers reached the men just before midday.

“We’ve dispatched a number of ambulance service personnel there just to give them a check up but from our initial discussions with them, they are fine,” he said.

The Avebury nickel mine is a new project for the Sydney-based company – Allegiance Mining. Allegiance suspended trading on the stock exchange this morning. Mr Howland-Rose said the suspension of trading would be in place until it became clear what had happened at the mine.

The mine is undergoing a $60 million redevelopment and was due to resume mining later this year.