ABC News reports there are at least two dozen miners trapped in a New Zealand coal mine after an explosion rocked the facility Nov. 19. The Pike River Coal mine experienced a power outage. When a worker went to investigate, an apparent explosion abruptly followed.
Two miners stumbled out of the mine entrance saying there were more miners behind them. According to the New York Times, “earlier in the day Pike River Coal, the company operating the mine, said 27 people were in the mine, but it was not clear whether the two men who had emerged were included in the figure.”
It is unknown if the trapped miners are still alive. Rescue crews are on site attempting to determine how best to proceed.
The New York Times reports the explosion comes a mere five weeks after the successful rescue of 33 miners in Chile who survived 69 days underground.
There are two critical concerns for the New Zealand miners. First is the potential for damage to the mine’s ventilation shaft and second is the possibility for more explosions due to methane gas.
Other mining operations have had seemingly tragic accidents in which workers have managed to survive against all odds. Considering the miraculous outcome of past mining accidents may offer a glimmer of hope for finding all the trapped Pike River Coal miners alive.
The world changed forever Aug. 5 of this year for workers in a San Jose mine in northern Chile. CNN reports the 33 men became trapped when the exit ramp to the mine collapsed. No one was able to communicate with the group trapped 2,300 feet underground.
Contact was finally made Aug. 22, revealing all the missing men were alive. A small supply tube was dug so the men could have food and water until a rescue tunnel could be completed. Original estimates placed a rescue attempt near Christmas but new technology was implemented to successfully save the miners months ahead of schedule.
Since their rescue, all 33 miners have gained fame and notoriety from around the world. Free iPods, sporting event tickets and possible movie deals awaited the men rescued Oct. 12-13, more than two months after becoming trapped underground in the gold and copper mine.
Quecreek Mine, Pennsylvania
On July 24, 2002, the Quecreek mine in Pennsylvania flooded with approximately 60 million gallons of water as miners broke into an adjacent abandoned mine. Of the 18 men working in the mine at the time of the accident, nine made it out safely, while nine others remain trapped.
Only three days later, all the remaining men were out alive after a 240 foot-long shaft was used to reach the miners. The relatively short depth required to drill to save the men aided in helping the miners to be rescued so quickly, according to QuecreekNine.com.
Granduc Mine, British Columbia
The Granduc copper mine along the border of Alaska and British Columbia has two major difficulties. First is that it lies near a glacier and second are the major snow packs which accumulate during the winter.
These factors combined to create a huge avalanche February 18, 1965, according to ExploreNorth.com.
There were hundreds of survivors, including many miners trapped underground. Rescue was difficult as planes and helicopters couldn’t get to the site due to adverse winter weather conditions. Boats and trains stood by to transport anyone rescued to nearby hospitals.
It was one of the largest rescue operations in mining history.
One of the more memorable miracles of the rescue revolved around Eino Myllyla, who survived 79 hours buried in ice. Despite being hospitalized for several months, he did survive. However 26 miners sleeping in the camp above ground died when their buildings were crushed. Hundreds more were saved due to quick action on the part of rescuers, as well as the massive rescue effort.
Even under the harshest conditions, the human spirit is unquestionably resilient and indomitable. Man can live and survive on very little else but hope when absolutely necessary. Ideally the trapped New Zealand miners will enjoy a successful rescue just in time for a holiday miracle.
Ferran, Lee, “New Zealand Minen Explosion Traps Dozens,” ABC News.
Hutchison, Jonathan, “Blast Traps New Zealand Coal Miners,” nytimes.com.
CNN, “Timeline: Trapped Chilean Miners,” CNN.com.
Explore North, “Death Came Silently: the Granduc Mine Disaster,” ExploreNorth.com.