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Waihi mining truck left to burn

Wednesday 18 Jul 2012 5:16 a.m.

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The Newmont underground goldmine at Waihi will be under the microscope on Wednesday, after 28 miners escaped after being trapped underground for up to seven hours by a truck fire.

The miners took refuge in three different underground chambers when a 35-tonne truck engine caught fire near the mine entrance at 5am on Tuesday.

Rescue teams brought them out in two waves and only one suffered from minor smoke inhalation.

Three inspectors from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's High Hazards Unit travelled to the site on Tuesday.

The team was actually due to audit the mine on Wednesday, said unit manager Brett Murray.

They had visited the mine in February and not found any safety problems, he said.

The incident comes less than two years after the Pike River Coal mine disaster, where 29 men were killed in a series of blasts on the West Coast.

Mr Murray said the Waihi mine was a hard rock mine and the explosive risk, other than from the burning vehicle itself, was almost non-existent.

The Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union wants New Zealand to bring its mine safety regime into line with Queensland's, which is considered international best practice.

But mine manager Glen Grindlay says the company complies with New Zealand mine safety standards and the more stringent Australian standards.

The 35-tonne mining truck was left to burn out while efforts were concentrated on extracting the miners.

He expected the truck to be towed to the surface once it burns out. There was a fear the truck's tyres would explode.


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