Fire left to smoulder for miners' safety

By Kiri Gillespie


A fire that trapped 28 miners underground at Waihi will be left to smoulder because it is too dangerous to try to put out.

The miners sheltered in refuge chambers inside Newmont Waihi Gold's Trio mine for seven hours yesterday after a truck caught fire and smoke from it billowed through the mine shafts.

The fire began about 5am and 13 of the miners were evacuated by 10.30am. The 15 others were rescued about noon.

External affairs co-ordinator Kit Wilson said they would wait for possibly two days before assessing and retrieving the truck, which began to smoulder last night.

"The issue is we don't go near vehicles that have caught on fire in case the tyres explode," Mr Wilson said.

Tyres on big trucks, and most pieces of large machinery, have a split rim on their wheels different to cars and bicycles.

"The tyre is built around the rim and there have been instances overseas of spilt rims exploding and those rims travelling 400m-500m. That's perfectly capable of killing someone."

It was for this reason the mine's standard procedure was to quarantine the vehicle and walk away until the fire had burned out and the vehicle and the tyres had cooled down, Mr Wilson said.

"It could be one day or two days. When we are sure the vehicle has cooled down and the wheels and tyres are safe, then we will deal with it."

The refuge chambers the miners sought shelter in were equipped with air and facilities to last for 36 hours because that was the maximum amount of time for a truck fire to burn out and for a rescue team to retrieve the miners.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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