The 39 miners trapped underground in a north Canadian mine are expected to be freed on Tuesday, after completing a grueling, half-day climb up more than 1,000 meters of ladders to the surface.
Workers at the Totten mine in northern Ontario were trapped deep underground on Sunday after a scoop bucket detached, blocking the mine’s main transport shaft.
With the route blocked, the miners were forced to scale a network of ladders in secondary shafts – a feat that was expected to take more than 10 hours. The workers had an opportunity to rest every 100 meters.
Ontario Mine Rescue told reporters that in instances where miners couldn’t complete the climb, ropes could be used to hoist them up.
“Everyone has a different physical ability,” Pascal Boucher, a local union coordinator, told the Sudbury Star as the rescue operation was under way. “We have older senior employees and much younger employees, who could probably climb it faster.”
While they were trapped for more than 35 hours, the miners had access to food, water and medicine, according to Vale, the Brazilian multinational company that owns the mine. They were also able to call family and loved ones.
Shortly before sunrise on Tuesday, the first exhausted miners began appearing at the surface. By late morning, 33 of 39 had emerged.
Vale official Gord Gilpin said in a statement the company was “relieved and delighted to see these individuals returning to surface safe and sound” after the climb.
“There is no doubt this was and continues to be an exhausting experience. I commend them on their patience and their resolve,” he said.
Vale spokesperson Danica Pagnutti told CBC News that she spoke with one of the miners who had been trapped underground.
“He was in good spirits and happy to have some pizza to take home and just looking forward to getting home to his family and relaxing, but generally in really good spirits,” she said. “The miners are all healthy and eager to go home.”
The mine, located southwest of Sudbury, first opened in 2014 and produces copper, nickel and precious metals.
Ontario’s labour ministry has said it will investigate the incident after the rescue operation has concluded.