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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 May 2006, 19:24 GMT 20:24 UK
Tasmanian miners thank rescuers
Brant Webb (l) and Todd Russell (r) on their way to hospital
The men have said they will return to mining in future
Two Tasmanian men trapped in a gold mine after an earthquake have spoken publicly about their ordeal for the first time since their rescue.

Brant Webb, 37, and Todd Russell, 34, paid tribute to the miners who managed to dig them out two weeks after the earthquake struck on April 25.

The men also pledged to help the family of their colleague, Larry Knight, 44, who died in the accident.

They survived as they were in a steel cage when the tremor struck.

The men were speaking at a televised charity concert held in aid of their community in the town of Beaconsfield.

"For all our mates who each day said goodbye to their families and loved ones and put their lives on the line for us and worked in dangerous, unstable conditions to bring us out, we owe our lives to them," Brant Webb said.

They also sent their condolences to Mr Knight's widow.

"Larry was a great friend of mine and a great colleague. A lot of people miss you Larry," said Todd Russell.

"If we can do anything Jackie, you will not go without," he added, addressing Mrs Knight.

Friends and relatives applaud as the miners are brought out
The whole community rallied round for the rescue effort

The men survived on one cereal bar and water running off rocks for five days before rescue teams managed to locate them.

The rescue operation was slow and delicate as rescuers feared triggering another cave-in while breaking through rock described as five times as hard as concrete.

When contact was made, a psychologist and paramedics constantly talked to them, giving them advice on how to cope, physically and emotionally.

"Without them our mental state wouldn't be what it is tonight. We'd just be blithering idiots up here tonight," said Mr Webb.

Mine safety

The concert was held to raise funds for the local community which relies exclusively on the mine for its main source of income.

Australian corporations and sporting bodies have given A$500,000 (US$390,000, 207,000) worth of donations to the fund.

The men are fast becoming national heroes with media outlets vying for exclusive rights to their story.

The mine has been closed pending an investigation into the rock fall.

Mine managers say a seismic event caused the cave-in, but union officials blame mine blasting for the rockfall, citing several cave-ins in recent years.

The Tasmanian state government has agreed to union demands for an independent investigation into the accident.

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