by Greg Klein | September 11, 2014
All 96 workers have returned to safety after Saskatchewan’s second potash project fire in eight days. No injuries were reported. But the last miners didn’t resurface until 8:30 p.m. local time September 11. Their shift started at 7 a.m. the previous day.
The blaze started at 4 p.m. September 10 in the engine of an underground water truck at PotashCorp’s (TSX:POT) Allan mine, according to a Canadian Press story published by the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. Most miners moved to refuge stations equipped with food, water and communications. But others, caught in dead-end sections of the mine, used a “battice,” described by CP as a curtain to seal themselves off. Those workers had no provisions other than their lunch buckets.
After an emergency crew put down the fire and cleared smoke, CP stated, about half the miners made their way out the night of September 10. But others were then stranded by a power failure that shut down air circulation fans and communications.
Ron St. Pierre, president of the site’s United Steelworkers local, was working above ground as a hoist operator when the fire broke out. He described some of the evacuees as “grouchy and hungry,” according to CP. “There’s not much to do but play cards or sleep, he said.”
CBC reported the last three workers got out around 8:30 p.m., September 11.
On September 2 a surface fire broke out at PotashCorp’s Cory mill, also in Saskatchewan. The cause is being investigated.
Last February a fire at Agrium’s (TSX:AGU) Vanscoy potash mine trapped over 50 underground workers overnight.
In January 2013 all 318 miners made it to safety after a fire at Mosaic’s (NYE:MOS) K2 mine.
At Rocanville, another PotashCorp mine, a September 2012 fire trapped 20 workers for 17 hours. At the time the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union attributed over 50 fatalities to Saskatchewan’s potash industry “since its inception in the late 1950s.”