Poisonous fumes may have overcome the four people who died at the decommissioned Sullivan mine in Kimberley, B.C., the city's mayor says.

Mayor Jim Ogilvie said Wednesday that a contractor testing acid-tainted water at an enclosed pumping station went missing for a few days.

On Wednesday morning, an employee of mine-owner Teck Cominco Ltd. discovered the man floating in the well of the pumping station, which is above ground.

The employee phoned 911 and then tried to rescue the man, but the fumes overcame him, Ogilvie said.

Two B.C. Ambulance Service paramedics went to the call, but were themselves overcome by the fumes.

They were found by members of the Kimberley fire department.

"When they got to the site of the emergency ... they found there were four people down at the time," said Ogilvie.

"They donned their gear to go into hazardous atmospheres and confined spaces ... They removed three people and one was left."

"The other three were transferred to hospital but I understand now that all four have been pronounced dead."

RCMP say one victim's body remains at the mine site. The coroner has declared the area unsafe for the time being.

Ogilvie said he was told that the four may have died from exposure to hydrogen sulphide, a gas that can be toxic in minute quantities.

David Parker, a spokesman for Teck Cominco, said the company doesn't yet have details, but confirmed that one employee and one contractor were among the dead.

Though the mine -- officially closed on Dec. 21, 2001 -- is decommissioned, workers are still on site "dealing with closure and cleanup," Ogilvie told CTV Newsnet.

While most of the decommissioning work is complete, the system that collects and pumps acid-drainage water is expected to operate indefinitely, he said.

Teck Cominco said in a news release that an investigation into the tragedy continues, with staff working on site with an emergency response team from Trail, B.C.

"Today's events are heartbreaking for all of Teck Cominco's employees and for everyone in this community," said Don Lindsay, president and CEO of Teck Cominco Ltd., in the release.

"Our hearts and thoughts go out to the loved ones and friends of those whose lives were lost today."

"We join with our employees and the community of Kimberley in sending our sincerest condolences to the families of the victims."

Teck Cominco's website for the underground mine said it produced more than $20 billion in lead, zinc and silver in its 92 years of production.

The deposit was discovered in 1892 and acquired by Cominco Ltd. in 1909.


This was done about 12 days but I didn't see a story link here for it.