ALL miners trapped underground after a fire at a Waihi goldmine in New Zealand have emerged safely.
The miners were trapped in three refuge areas underground since a truck engine fire was reported at 5am yesterday. Thirteen emerged mid morning, with the rest being rescued by Mines Rescue staff around midday.
Several smiling, relaxed miners were driven out of the mine but declined to comment.
Glen Grindley, Newmont's operations general manager, said only one miner needed treatment for smoke inhalation.
He was happy with their emergency evacuation procedures and said staff safely got to the underground emergency chambers which were fully equipped. From there they phoned others above the surface to confirm they were OK.
The Trio mine was a hardrock gold mine and there was never a risk of an explosion, Grindley said.
Newmont had been in touch with families and the local community through the morning, a spokesman said.
Three Newmont Waihi Gold Mines Rescue Teams had helped with the evacuation. NZ Mines Rescue and Solid Energy had also offered assistance. All operations were halted during the emergency.
Mine safety expert Dave Feickert said the first hurdle for the rescuers would have been extinguishing the fire and removing the risk of any toxic fumes from that.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment had sent two Wellington-based inspectors to the mine, a spokeswoman said.
Waihi Ward Councillor chairperson Sel Baker said the fire had started when the engine on a large truck caught fire.
"They are great, big trucks. The type that can carry about 80 to 100 tonnes of soil. As soon as it caught fire they abandoned the truck and went to the refuge rooms.
"The tunnels are about 6m in diameter.
"I've been down the mine and into the refuges. You could be down there two or three days and you'd have everything you need."