Three miners rescued after cave-in


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The Independent Online

Three men were trapped underground for up to an hour after a cave-in at a colliery in the early hours of this morning.

Rescuers released the three trapped men after a trench collapsed at the Aberpergwm drift mine, in Glynneath, south Wales, just after 3am.

"Three people were released, there were two casualties who were taken to hospital," a Mid and West Wales Fire Brigade spokeswoman said.

"The third person was released after receiving treatment at the scene."

She added that they were released by a colliery mine rescue crew after being trapped for approximately one hour.

Firefighters stood by with lighting equipment and gave assistance until receiving the order to stand down at 5.58am.

A Welsh Ambulance Service spokesman confirmed that two men were taken to Morriston Hospital, Swansea.

The extent of their injuries is not known, but they are not believed to be life-threatening.

The colliery cave-in at the Neath Valley drift mine comes seven weeks to the day after the deaths of four miners.

Phillip Hill, 45, Garry Jenkins, 39, David Powell, 50, and Charles Breslin, 62, died when water engulfed Gleision Colliery in the neighbouring Swansea Valley.

The disaster happened when a tunnel the men were working in was flooded after a wall holding back a body of water collapsed.

A joint police and Health and Safety Executive investigation into the accident is still under way.

Neath MP Peter Hain expressed concern for the miners injured today, but said the incident was thankfully not of the same magnitude as the tragedy in Gleision.

He said: "Any injury to any miner is a cause for concern.

"This latest incident is endemic in mining, which is a risky activity.

"However, it cannot be compared to the tragic disaster which occurred in Gleision.

"Against the backdrop of Gleision people may be understandably more concerned.

"But Aberpergwm is a modern and efficient mine. Its safety record is admirable and the mine is employing and recruiting more and more people every year."

Mr Hain said he would be "very concerned" if the Gleision tragedy cast a dark shadow over mining in his constituency, where "400 people are employed in highly skilled jobs".

Aberpergwm first opened in the late 19th century, and during the 1930s more than 1,500 men were employed there.

It closed in 1985, but reopened 12 months later under private ownership.

The mine, which is believed to have coal reserves of around 6.8 million tonnes, is now owned by American firm Walter Energy and employs around 230 people.

Stephen Nye, a workplace injury specialist at law firm Irwin Mitchell, said the accident was a cause for concern.

"This is just the latest in a series of incidents in recent weeks, following the deaths at the Gleision and Kellingley Collieries, which have raised serious questions over mining safety in general across the UK.

"We are very concerned about this and would urge the Health and Safety Executive and other industry authorities to recognise just how urgent action on this issue now is and launch a full investigation into the safety regulations related to this industry.

"Through our work acting for the victims and families of those killed in workplace incidents, we have seen the terrible impact that such devastating cases can have on so many lives.

"To have several serious mining incidents occur just weeks apart suggests a clear need to assess how health and safety in this sector is considered, with a view to ensuring that miners can be given reassurances that they won't be affected by the same terrible problems in the future.

"A full assessment of legislation and regulations could undoubtedly play a key role in this."