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Explosion at Greenhills mine hospitalizes three

Sarah Kucharski, The Free Press, Fernie, April 5 2015

On Sunday, April 5 an explosion at Greenhills mine near Elkford occurred sending three to hospital with burns.

The explosion occurred Sunday morning at approximately 11 a.m. STARS (Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society) was dispatched to the scene at 11:26 a.m.

According to David Haslam, Communications Coordinator with the Ministry of Energy and Mines, the explosion happened in the coal drying operation of the mine.

The employees were not believed to be inside at the time, but were located outside of the room at the time of the blast.

Haslam described the incident as a "flash fire."

Spokesperson for B.C. Ambulance Libby Brown said the three injured, two men and one woman, were initially being treated for second- and third-degree burns.

One of the injured was sent to Fernie Hospital for treatment and at least one of the others has been transferred to Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary.

"We initially transferred two of them to Sparwood and one to Fernie," said Brown. "One or possibly two of them have been brought to Calgary."

Haslam said that Chief Inspector of Mines Al Hoffman is currently investigating the incident.

"He and two other mine inspectors are on route to the mine site," said Haslam. "We will provide more information as it becomes available."

A statement from Teck has stated that no major impact to the operation has been made due to the flash fire.

The cause of the explosion is not yet known.

The Teck-owned mine is eight kilometres northeast of Elkford. A previous explosion at Greenhills in June 2010 resulted in four employees being treated for smoke inhalation. The cause was a dryer exploding and caused extensive damage to the building and resulted in a temporary closure.

Updates will be made when available.