15 of 17 miners stuck in NY salt mine hoisted to surface

LANSING, NEW YORK: Emergency crews rescued 15 of 17 miners who were stuck for hours in an elevator 900 feet underground at a central New York salt mine that's the deepest in the Western Hemisphere, officials said Thursday.

Mark Klein, a spokesman for Minneapolis, Minnesota-based Cargill Inc., said efforts to rescue the two remaining miners were continuing. Klein said they were not in danger, and added the rescue operation could be completed soon.

Four miners were hoisted to the surface in a basket around 7 am at the Cayuga Salt Mine in Lansing, about 40 miles outside Syracuse.

Four more miners were rescued in the same manner about 30 minutes later, and another seven were brought to the surface by 8:30 am, Klein said.

Klein said the elevator — large enough to accommodate a forklift — got stuck around 10 p.m. Wednesday while descending to the floor of the 2,300-foot-deep mine. Emergency workers were able to communicate via radio with the miners, who had blankets, heat packs and other supplies lowered to them.

The mine, which Klein said is the deepest salt mine in the Western Hemisphere, produces road salt that is shipped throughout the northeastern United States. The mine is located on the shore of Cayuga Lake and extends beneath its waters.

Mining at the Lansing site began 100 years ago. Cargill bought the mine in 1970 and today employs 200 workers at the operation, Klein said.

The company conducts evacuation drills annually, Klein said.

"While we hope to never make use of that practice, it's helping us today," he said.

Mining operations will be shut down for the rest of the week as company officials and federal government mine safety inspectors investigate what caused the elevator, one of several at the site, to malfunction, Klein said.

"We want to take a step back, check things out," he said.