Canadian miners evacuated after potash mine fire

Twenty miners were safely evacuated after a fire at a potash mine in Canada’s western Saskatchewan province trapped them underground for several hours, the company said on Tuesday.

No one was wounded in the blaze at the Rocanville mine, which broke out at 1.56am on Tuesday (1.56pm on Wednesday HK time) on Tuesday and forced the miners to take refuge in an emergency station deep underground for the next 18 hours.

“PotashCorp reports that the remaining 20 personnel that were in refuge stations underground have now safely returned to the surface,” the company said in a statement.

It took fire crews nearly 12 hours to douse the blaze with water and foam, and rescuers then had to wait for the area to cool and ventilate before evacuating the miners.

The company said normal operations at the mine would resume on Wednesday.

PotashCorp official Dale Strangeland had earlier said that nine other miners were also underground when a wooden cable reel in the mine caught fire but escaped to the surface.

Friction between the spools and steel skid plates may have sparked the fire, according to local media, which cited this as the cause of past incidents at the mine.

PotashCorp is the world’s largest producer of the potassium compound used as a fertiliser. Its Rocanville mine is about 200km from the provincial capital Regina.