All 54 trapped Australian gold miners rescued

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SYDNEY, Oct 24 (Reuters) All 54 miners trapped by fire underground at a gold mine in Western Australia have been rescued, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported today.

The ABC's Web site said all 54 had been recovered and local authorities had begun an investigation into the incident.

The fire broke out in a caterpillar truck working underground at the Kanowna Belle gold mine, forcing the miners to shelter in refuge stations, Barrick Gold Corp. said.

''The fire has been extinguished by the onboard fire suppression system. As a precautionary measure the 54 employees working undergound at the time proceeded to the refuge chambers,'' the company said in a statement.

Kanowna Belle, 20 km (12 miles) north-east of the outback mining town of Kalgoorlie, boasts a rich lode containing more than 14 million ounces of gold.

In 2006, 17 miners were working in the Beaconsfield gold mine on the southern Australian island of Tasmania when it collapsed. Fourteen escaped at once, one was killed, and the remaining two were rescued after surviving for two weeks about one kilometre underground.

A series of mining accidents in China and South Africa this month killed almost 40 miners. Sixteen Chinese coal miners were found dead after being trapped underground for more than 30 hours, while South African police recovered the bodies of 23 miners after a fire in a gold mine.

REUTERS SG RK1736

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