July 16, 2012 / 11:54 PM / 5 years ago

Fire at Newmont mine in New Zealand forces evacuations

WELLINGTON, July 17 (Reuters) - A fire at a New Zealand gold mine owned by Newmont Mining Corp on Tuesday forced the evacuation of miners holed up in underground refuge chambers and halted all operations.

Newmont Mining Corporation, the world's second-largest gold producer, said 28 miners were underground when the fire was started by a truck engine at its Waihi Trio gold mine, about 120 km (75 miles) southeast of Auckland on New Zealand's North Island.

Television footage showed plumes of smoke rising from a mine shaft. The Trio mine is a hard rock gold mine and Newmont said there was no risk of a mine explosion.

Newmont said 13 of its personnel had been evacuated, while another 15 were awaiting rescue.

"The miners were gathered in three refuge chambers in different parts of the mine, and two of those chambers holding a total of 13 staff have already been evacuated to the surface by our Mines Rescue Team and are well," Newmont said in a statement.

"The remaining 15 staff are in the third refuge chamber and Mines Rescue are currently proceeding towards that chamber."

U.S. gold producer Newmont is based in Colorado and has operations around the world. Newmont Waihi Gold manages the Martha, Favona and Trio operations in Waihi, New Zealand.

A methane gas explosion at the Pike River coal mine on the country's South Island killed 29 miners in 2010, prompting the closure of the mine. State-owned New Zealand coal miner Solid Energy has since said it would purchase the mine.

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