A fire in a Coromandel gold mine that trapped 28 workers underground this morning could take days to extinguish.
The team of men were forced into refuge chambers after a fire broke out in a truck engine in Newmont Waihi Gold's Trio underground mine at around 5am today.
General manager Glen Grindlay said putting out the fire is not a priority because of the potential danger the flaming 30-tonne dump truck poses.
"Tyres can explode for up to 24 to 48 hours after having severe heating, so we will isolate that area and then go in there later on."
Underground manager Charles Gawth said if the tyres did explode, rims and other materials could travel up to 500 metres.
Three inspectors from the High Hazards Unit are at the mine to ensure any work being undertaken is done so safely.
Grindlay said the 28 rescued men were in "good spirits", saying some even thought the procedure was a drill.
"We got everyone out, we followed procedures, so we are very happy with that.
"We tried to keep the community and families informed as we were going through."
The miners took shelter in underground refuge chambers similar to large insulated steel containers with water, air and power facilities.
The workers were due to finish an overnight shift, which began at 7pm last night.
Mine spokesperson Linda Willoughby said there was no risk of a mine explosion as the Trio mine is a hardrock gold mine.
Access to the Trio Mine is through the Favona portal. All operations at the mine have been halted and are expected to resume in two days.
Newmont Waihi Gold
Newmont Waihi Gold is owned by Newmont Mining Corporation which is based in Denver, Colorado and operates on five continents.
According to its website, Newmont Waihi Gold operates both the Martha Mine open pit and the Favona underground mine in Waihi.
It has recently started a development project that provides exploration access to the new Trio underground mine in Waihi.
Martha and Favona produce, on average, around 100,000 ounces of gold and around 750,000 ounces of silver annually.
The Martha and Favona mines support a direct workforce of around 350 people.
The Labour Party said New Zealand's underground miners would continue to be at risk until the Government brings safety regulations up to international standard.
Labour's spokesperson for health and safety Darien Fenton said the incident was a stark reminder underground mining remained highly dangerous and the Government should improve safety regulations.
"While the Government has made some progress with its High Hazards Unit, New Zealand still has essentially the same mine safety regime as it did before the Pike River Mine tragedy," he said.
Newmont and the Department of Labour are working together to establish when the mine can reopen.
Investigations into the cause of the fire are underway.