An accident at the Vale-operated Totten mine in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada, has trapped 39 workers underground.

The accident occurred on 26 September 2021 when a scoop bucket being transported underground dislodged and blocked the shaft of the mine. Rescue operations are currently underway.

Following the incident, the trapped miners proceeded to refuge stations where they have had access to food and water. The miners have been in contact with above-ground staff.

Rescue efforts have suspended production at the mine, which produced 3,600 metric tonnes of nickel in the first six months of this year.

Union USW Local 6500, which represents most Totten Mine employees, president Nick Larochelle said: “Fortunately, no one has been physically injured in this incident.

“Every effort is being made to ensure everyone is brought back to the surface safely and as quickly as possible.”

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Vale commented that employees stuck underground have already started returning to the surface.

The Brazilian miner, which expects all the trapped employees to return to the surface, said that the rescue team is making efforts to extract the employees via a secondary egress ladder system.

Vale Ontario head of mining operations Gord Gilpin said: “There is no doubt this was and continues to be an exhausting experience. I commend them on their patience and their resolve.

“I also want to acknowledge the efforts of our mine rescue team and Totten responders who are working tirelessly to bring their colleagues to surface safely,” the miner said.

The Totten mine started production in February 2014 and is located in Canada’s Worthington region. It produces copper, nickel and other precious metals.

Earlier this year, Vale agreed to pay $7bn (R$37.7bn) in compensation for the Brumadinho dam disaster in Minas Gerais, Brazil, which killed 270 people and caused significant environmental damage.

The compensation agreement was signed with prosecutors and the Minas Gerais government.