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Union and company congratulate miners and rescuers as last of 39 stranded reaches the surface

By on September 30, 2021 0


“The most important thing that comes out of the mine is the miner,” says Gord Gilpin of Vale, as the company and Steelworkers Local 6500 announce a joint investigation into an incident that forced workers to stay underground for days when the well is blocked.

At 60, Perry Venedam was one of the oldest miners stranded underground at the Totten mine in Vale on Sunday after a piece of equipment hanging from the bottom got lodged in the shaft and put the cage lift system on. out of order.

Along with 39 other Vale employees, he was forced to use a secondary exit ladder system to exit the mine with the help of mine rescuers, who ensured they could climb safely to the using fall arrest equipment.

In a situation that grabbed national media headlines, Vale employees gradually exited the mine this week, with the last group leaving at 4:45 a.m. Wednesday morning.

With over 30 years of underground experience under his belt, Venedam, a heavy-duty equipment mechanic who has worked at Vale for 16 years, helped keep other employees calm as they rose to the surface.

A younger man who was climbing with him said his arms were starting to hurt, so Venedam said they should stop and take a break, that they weren’t in a rush.

“The group that was in front of us, I said ‘Hey, young people, I’m coming,'” said Venedam, who said he experienced a similar situation 20 years ago when he was forced to go upstairs. scales out of Mine.

“There were a few joking words.”

In his case, Venedam was at level 3,150 of the mine and had to climb 2,500 feet to level 650, where they were able to grab a cage on the surface.

It took him three and a half hours, starting Monday just before midnight, and exiting the mine around 3:30 a.m. Tuesday morning. He said his arms and legs were still a bit sore, but other than that he felt great.

“When I started to climb I thought I was going too fast,” said Venedam. “I had the wind in my sails. I caught my breath, I paused. Mine rescue is good. They were every two hundred feet, asked how we were doing and if you wanted water. They were very, very helpful.

While he waited for the mine rescue to set up operations, Venedam watched movies on his iPad, tried to get some sleep, and kept in touch with his family members. He also helped the Mine Rescue Team deliver food to his colleagues. spoke to Venedam at the Totten mine this morning as he gathered some of his belongings at the mine site.

Gord Gilipin, Vale’s mining operations manager in Ontario, along with Steelworkers Local 6500 president Nick Larochelle answered questions from local and national reporters at a press conference at Totten Mine on Wednesday morning.

“I attended a safety summit recently, and someone made a comment that really touched me personally, and it’s the most important thing that comes out of the mine is the miner.” , Gilpin said.

“I am happy to confirm that thanks to the massive efforts of a great team, we have reached the goal. While we never want to find ourselves in a situation like the one we have experienced and which we continue to address, I can say that I have never been so proud of our employees at Vale, many of whom are volunteers for our organization. mine rescue.

Now that all the miners are out of the mine safe and sound, Vale and Local 6500 will conduct a joint investigation into the incident.

“There are a lot of questions that need to be answered,” said Larochelle, who also praised the mine rescue team, and stressed that miners were never “trapped” because they could use secondary exit scales.

“Who, what, when, where and why. We know that the material incident investigation tool we use will answer all of these questions. We will come to certain conclusions and recommendations, and those recommendations will lead us to ensure that a similar incident does not happen again. “

Gilpin said officials from the Department of Labor, Training and Skills Development had also been on site since the incident and requested information from Vale.

Presumably, the ministry will also investigate the incident. has contacted ministry officials to find out more.

The mine cage elevator was taken out of service after an excavator bucket suspended in the mine became lodged in the shaft at the 650-foot level, causing damage to an approximately 100-foot section of the shaft.

Gilpin has said that no underground activity will take place at the Totten mine at this time, and he doesn’t know how long it will be out of service.

He described the scene at the mine when the last worker emerged from its depths early this morning.

“It’s hard to put into words,” Gilpin said. “It’s obviously a very moving end to a very stressful exercise, with a lot of effort on the part of a lot of people.

“So yeah, it was actually a great feeling to see that happen. There were a lot of smiles, a few laughs, some punches and kudos.”