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‘Nerve-wracking’: Wife of trapped miner anxious as husband prepares for 2,500-foot climb to surface

Woman tells the 39 trapped workers are at the 3,150 level and need to get up to the 650-foot level, where they can get a cage to the surface
Vale's Totten Mine in Sudbury. (File)

The wife of one of the 39 people trapped underground at Vale’s Totten Mine since yesterday says she’s feeling a little anxious as her husband prepares to climb 2,500 feet up the mine’s “secondary egress ladder system.”

The woman, who asked not to be named, said in phone calls with her husband he said the miners — with the aid of Vale’s mine rescue team — need to climb from their current location at the 3,150 foot level of the mine to the 650 foot level of the mine, where they can take a cage lift to the surface. Vale has not confirmed this information.

“I’m a little anxious right now,” she said.

“It’s really nerve-wracking to know that they’re underground, and they have no food. They haven’t eaten since yesterday. (Mine rescue) brought them protein bars and candy bars for food. The conditions there are not great. They’re sleeping in boardroom chairs.”

Given the climb she said is ahead of him, she said her husband, a Vale staff employee who has been in mining for 30 years, is in good physical condition. 

However, climbing 2,500 feet is the equivalent of climbing to the top of the CN tower one-and-a-half times, and they’ll be climbing a ladder, not stairs, she said. The miners and mine rescuers will have a chance to rest every 100 feet or so.

Contacted by just before 3 p.m., the woman, who had recently spoken to her husband by phone from underground, said the miners had not yet begun their ascent. 

“So they’re going to have the safety gear on these workers, and they can only go two at a time,” she said. “It’s going to take four to six hours for these two to come up to the top.”

She said her husband “was on the verge of tears” last night because he couldn’t come home. 

“This morning he’s trying to keep it together,” the woman said, adding her husband will probably spend another night in the mine before they can all get out of there. “I can hear it in his voice. He’s a strong man. He has to be strong for the workers, too.”

Located about 40 km west of Copper Cliff near the small community of Worthington, Totten Mine employs about 200 people. Opened in 2014, copper, nickel and other precious metals are mined at the site.