BOULBY MINE near Whitby was already on a heightened state of alert in relation to gas escapes when a worker was killed in an underground blast, it was revealed.
The company’s safety manager Simon Hunt revealed mine operations were at an “additional” level.
John Anderson, 56, died at Boulby potash mine in the North York Moors at 3am today when a sudden and powerful release of gas occurred in the section where he was working.
Mr Hunt said: “These events are not uncommon and we have procedures in place to ensure safe working, there is no suggestion to say that these procedures were not being followed. At this early stage of the investigation it would appear that this particular event was unprecedented.”
The blast, which led to the death of miner Mr Anderson, occured 1,000 metres underground and 4.5km out under the sea.
Mr Anderson, of Easington, was driving a continuous miner machine which tunnels and makes a roadway. He was part of a team of eight but his colleagues were not injured.
Mr Hunt told a press conference that it was still not clear whether the gas blast or the following debris killed Mr Anderson, who had worked at Boulby for 35 years.
He added: “The investigations into the incident have already begun but they are at a very early stage. We will be co-operating fully with the Mines Inspectorate in order that we can discover exactly what happened.
“Naturally everyone involved with Boulby is affected by this tragic incident. First and foremost our thoughts are with John’s family and friends and we will be doing everything we can to help and support them through this very difficult time”.
Operations at the mine, which are run aro9und the clock, ceased while the 100 workers were brought to the surface.
Police were called along with other emergency services as a matter of routine but handed the investigation over to HM Inspectorate of Mines.
It is thought that operations will resume today. Mr Hunt also dismissed claims, being led by Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP Tom Blenkinsop, that job losses at the mine in a bid to save money are having an impact on health and safety.
Mr Hunt added: “It is an interesting and obvious question that will be asked. These concerns are misconstrued when you look at the risk assessment we did.”