|National Champions: Newmont team wins first place in mine rescue — first ever in the state|
Elko Daily Free Press
By Dylan Woolf Harris
January 2, 2014
See Newmont Mining Carlin Team Photo
Nine missing miners. Smoke in an underground drift. A rescue crew racing the clock.
It was a mock field disaster — a fire in an underground mine.
As one of 10 teams competing in the final day of the National Mine Rescue Competition, the Carlin Mine Rescue team was on its way to a National Champion first-place finish — an accomplishment no Nevada team has achieved before. The event took place over three days in Reno this past summer.
“They’ll try to make it so the engineered design of the ventilation is disrupted somehow, and those people are trapped in a part of the mine where that ventilation has been disrupted. So now you have to make decisions on how to manipulate the ventilation in the mine to get fresh air to the trapped miners, so you can rescue them,” said Cody Allen, team captain and Leeville engineer.
Each time a team makes a wrong decision it is penalized a few points. The team with the fewest points takes home the trophy and title of National Champion.
At the end of the third day of this year’s event, the Carlin Mine Rescue Team took the top spot.
The disastrous simulations aren’t just obstacles to be conquered for the sake of competition, however. The mines want their rescue teams to be ready when called upon, whether that’s in the event of a fire, flood or dangerous gas leak.
“The competitions, really, what they prepare us for is on-the-spot, critical decision making in the case of a real incident,” Allen said.
Having a qualified and capable rescue team on call is reassuring for other employees.
“It makes me feel safer when I go out there and go underground, knowing that any shift that I go on, we have the best rescue team in the nation,” said Mike Peck, emergency response and hazmat manager.
The team — eight members — is made up of two mechanics, two electricians and four miners. There are also two coordinators.
“This team has been together for a couple years now and we work real well together,” Allen said.
He said the group has monthly training days where it takes competition-style field problems and reworks them, just to prepare.
Newmont management took pride in the group’s accomplishments and hard work and recognized the example it set for the industry as a whole.
“With their increasing successes, including their stellar performances at this year’s nationals, our mine rescue teams have garnered much attention from around the country,” said Tom Kerr, Newmont North America senior vice president, adding that other trainers and teams from across the country had success in subsequent competitions after they consulted with or observed Newmont’s teams.
“We greatly appreciate the hard work and dedication of our mine rescue teams and all our other internal emergency responders, and we applaud their important role in our safety journey,” he said.
In order to compete in the final scenario, the team had to compete through two days of qualifying rounds.
Exercises included administering first-aid scenarios with live volunteers acting injured, setting up and checking a safety apparatus and searching through piping and barriers for missing miners.
“You know that when you make the final day, you’re at the top of your game,” he said. Allen said the competitions are supposed to get progressively more difficult as the teams compete on day two and three.
Newmont’s mine rescue teams have changed from mine site-specific teams to regional support teams, with the ability to help one another and other mines around the state.
“Even our Carlin Surface Mine Rescue Team chose to skip this year’s Surface Competition in Gillette, Wyo., so they could assist with this contest,” said Randy Squires, senior manager on health safety and loss prevention and compliance. “It was good to see the surface and underground teams coming together to represent Newmont on a national stage.”
Newmont’s Midas Mine Rescue Team competed at Reno as well and made it past the first two qualifying days.
“We congratulate our Carlin and Midas mine rescue teams on their successes at this and other competitions this year,” Kerr said. “We also thank our mining industry partners, including the Nevada Mining Association, the Mine Safety and Health Administration and other mining companies, who provide the resources — namely, talented, experienced people — making it possible to continue holding this important event.”