11 / 3
      12 / 2
      6 / -5

      Exclusive look at underground operations at Eagle Mine

      Last September, Rio Tinto's Eagle Mine covered about 130 acres above ground near Big Bay. Nine months later, progress is made.

      "This mile-long decline is leading to our ore body," said Dan Blondeau, a media relations advisor for Rio Tinto. "It'll take about one year to complete, and right now we're about 55 percent complete."

      TV6 had the cameras rolling for an exclusive tour below the surface. It's an opening about two semitrailers wide, with a slight downward slope. We headed down and 3,000 feet later, and 300 feet underground, we make it to the face of the rock, where a rock bolter secures the rock after a blast.

      "They were putting in support on the wall to make sure that dry, loose rock or debris doesn't fall down," Blondeau said.

      Miners also spray liquid concrete. The extra fiber gives extra support. On the other side, another team of miners secured the wiring...a lengthy process, but necessary. We're told down here, safety is the number one priority. In the event of emergency, there is a centrally located 12-person refuge chamber. All of the miners are equipped with a one-hour oxygen generator, but there are many more supplies inside to last them a minimum of 36 hours.

      The chamber itself is a $100,000 operation, stocked with food, air supply and a communication system.

      "We don't take a person's life at risk, we don't put anyone in jeopardy," said miner and shift boss Tim South.

      Most of the machinery used is locally bought, like the muck truck that takes out roughly 800 tons of rock daily.

      One of the biggest operations is the water treatment plant. It will stay for a period of 20 years to monitor the water, long after operations at the mine have ceased.

      "Nothing on this site drains anywhere but into those ponds in the containment area," South said. "We leave our containment area, we wash our vehicles; we're not allowed to leave without being washed."

      It takes a team of 83 miners and other employees to operate the entire mine. Once mining in the ore body begins, officials say that number will rise to more than 230. Most of those miners are expected to be local.