A miner is reunited with his wife at the Rudna copper mine in Polkowice: photo - PAP/Maciej Kulczynski
“Eighteen of the men are completely unscathed, and they were able to go to the locker room, take a shower and return home,” said Dariusz Wyborski, press spokesman for the KGHM Polish Copper Group, in an interview with the TVN24 news channel.
“One of the men sustained a 3-cm gash to the head that will need several stitches,” he added.
An earth tremor struck just after 10pm on Tuesday, with the European Seismological Centre estimating that it could have reached as high as 5 on the Richter scale.
Small earthquakes are common in the area which has been heavily mined over decades.
The affected area, around 400 kms from Warsaw, was about 1000 metres beneath the earth's surface.
The rescue team managed to locate the miners, who were equipped with oxygen marks, shortly after 5 am.
Ten of the miners were able to crawl through a slit dug by the rescue team, and the remaining men were all freed by 7 am.
Piotr Walczak, who led the rescue operation, praised his colleagues.
“I would like to thank them personally for an exemplary action,” he said.
His sentiments were echoed by Treasury Minister Mikolaj Budzanowski, who travelled to Polkowice to thank the rescue team.
Meanwhile, there was immense relief among the miners' wives who had gathered at the site.
“It was a very tough night, and I preferred to stay here,” one of the wives told the TVN 24 broadcaster.
“The most important thing is that they are all in one piece,” she added.
The Rudna mine in Polkowice is KGHM Polish Copper's deepest mine, reaching to 1250m.
In February 2010, five men were killed following an earthquake at the site. (nh/pg)