Sat, Jan 09, 2016 - Page 7 News List

Salt miners rescued after frigid night trapped in elevator

AP, LANSING, Michigan

Seventeen miners spent a frigid night in a broken-down elevator in America’s deepest salt mine, huddling with heat packs and blankets before being rescued early on Thursday, a mishap that highlighted the sometimes-risky work of churning out the road salt that keeps traffic moving on ice and snow.

The workers were descending to start their shifts at about 10pm on Wednesday when the approximately 1.5-by-1.8-meter car abruptly stopped about 90 storys below ground in the Cayuga, New York, salt mine while heading to a floor nearly deep enough to fit two Empire State Buildings stacked atop one another.

The miners would spend the next 10 hours stuck in a shaft that is also an air intake, with night air less than minus-6°C rushing in as they tried to stay warm with heat pads, blankets and containers of coffee that were lowered down, officials said. Ultimately, a crane was brought in from 48km away to pull the miners to safety in a cage-like basket, a few at a time, as those gathered up top cheered.

The rescued miners, who ranged in age from 20 to 60, were found to be uninjured.

While authorities and mine owner Cargill Inc were investigating what caused the problem, a spokesman for the Minneapolis-based company said it appeared that the beam that keeps the elevator’s car aligned in the shaft was bent or broken.

The malfunction came five days after a circuit breaker problem briefly knocked the lift out of service during a test trip with no one underground, US federal Mine Safety and Health Administration records showed. And despite a deadly accident in 2010, mine agency official Neal Merrifield said the mine has a good safety record with a lower rate of violations and accidents than similar facilities.

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