Australian gold mine in rescue drama to reopen

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MELBOURNE, Oct 1 (Reuters) Part of an Australian gold mine where two miners survived for 14 days trapped underground after a cave-in last year will re-open on Monday, with machines replacing miners in the area of the mine that collapsed.

The miners, Todd Russell and Brant Webb, captured world attention in April 2006 when they were trapped in a small wire cage almost a kilometre underground, under tonnes of rock.

They survived by drinking mineral-boosted water until rescuers managed to dig a small tunnel to feed them fresh water and food. A third miner, Larry Knight, was killed.

Beaconsfield Gold , which owns the Beaconsfield mine in the southern island state of Tasmania, said the western section of the mine that has been closed since the cave-in will reopen after receiving official safety clearance.

But because the area is still subject to seismic activity, remote-controlled machines will be used for drilling in the western section.

''The mine will use a new, remotely monitored and operated mining method which means no one will enter the ore body during the production phase,'' Beaconsfield Chief Executive Bill Colvin said.

The mine aims to return to full production by the end of the year.

The two survivors became local celebrities after their two-week ordeal, which attracted hundreds of journalists to the site for the rescue operation.

Reuters MP VP0718

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