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Miners rescued from underground fire

Rescue officials have put out a fire that began Sunday in the Pampalo gold mine in Ilomantsi, north Karelia. The blaze began about 160 metres underground, forcing three mine workers to seek refuge in a shaft some 340 metres beneath the surface.

Tiedotusvälineiden edustajia Pampalon kultakaivoksen portilla.
News crews were not permitted past the barrier Sunday night. Image: Riikka Heikkilä /Y le

Officials say that the fire apparently began when exposed cables came into contact with mining machinery located about 160 metres underground.

No one was injured in the incident, which began around 8.00 pm Sunday night. The Pampalo gold mine is located about 45 kilometres northeast of Ilomantsi in eastern Finland.

Rescue officials said that the bucket of a mine excavator apparently came into contact with cables hanging from the ceiling of the mine. An electrical arc from the cables ignited hydraulic fluid in the machine, causing the fire.

The operator of the excavator and two other miners working at a lower level were forced to seek refuge in an emergency container about 340 metres underground.

They were taken to safety by rescue workers about two hours later when the fire had been put out, according to local rescue officials.

An additional four miners were also at work when the fire broke out, but since they were above the blaze location, they were able to evacuate the mine safely.

Director at the mine Janne Muttonen said that the miners acted according to the mine’s safety plan. He noted that the men working below the location of the blaze retreated to the rescue site and did not attempt to fight their way past the fire.

Fire chief Jani Kareinen also commended the miners for their exemplary composure during the incident. The operator of the excavator began efforts to extinguish the fire, while other personnel cut the mine’s power supply and ventilated the shaft to remove noxious fumes caused by the fire.

Repair work began immediately after the fire was put out, Muttonen said. The incident is not expected to affect production at the mine.

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