Elevator to be removed from NY mine where workers got stuck

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LANSING, N.Y. (AP) — Crews prepared Friday to remove the elevator on which 17 salt mine workers spent up to 10 frigid hours after the lift got stranded hundreds of feet underground.

Cargill Inc. spokesman Mark Klein said the Minneapolis-based company's operations in Lansing, New York, are closed again Friday, a day after the miners were hauled to the surface by a crane after getting struck 900 feet below ground.

The workers were heading to the mine's 2,300-foot deep floor to start their overnight shift late Wednesday when the two-level elevator got stuck. A crane was brought in to drop a basket to the miners and bring them out. The last group of miners was rescued by 8:30 a.m. Thursday.

Scott MacIntosh, foreman for Auburn Crane and Rigging, told The Associated Press he was meeting Friday with company officials and government workplace safety experts to determine how they'll use the crane to remove the two-level elevator from its shaft so it can be inspected.

Hours after the last miner was rescued, Klein said it appears a beam that kept an elevator car aligned in the mine shaft bent or broke before the miners boarded, causing them to get stranded 90 stories underground.

The crane company, located in another park of the Finger Lakes region 30 miles from the mine, received a call around 1:30 a.m. Thursday from emergency officials seeking help, according to owner Steve Bilinski. The company's 275-ton mobile crane was on site by 4 a.m., MacIntosh said.

Crane operator David Smith lowered a rescue basket capable of holding several people to the miners, who had to climb out of a hatch at the top of the elevator to reach it, MacIntosh said. It took less than 90 minutes to bring all the miners out during an operation MacIntosh called "dicey" because the crane crew had never participated in a mine rescue before.

When the miners reached the surface, they high-fived the crane crew, he said.

"It went so smooth, it was perfect," MacIntosh said.

He said if the elevator had gotten stuck at the 1,000-foot level or lower, the miners "probably still be down there" because that depth was beyond the crane's cable length and would have required a more complicated and lengthy rescue effort.

The shaft the elevator got stuck in is one of two at the mine. The other shaft has two elevators.

Klein said it wasn't immediately known when the mine will resume operations. The company says the mine located on Cayuga Lake's southern end processes about 2 million tons of road salt per year.

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