Coal Miners Compete for Trophy, Pride, and Knowledge
May 16, 2012

INA, Illinois - More than a dozen coal mining safety teams competed at Rend Lake College Wednesday, but there was more at stake than just a trophy.

With the sun beating down, miners dressed in complete safety gear for the Robert Earl Jones Mine Rescue Contest.

"This is some of the best training for these mine rescue teams because it gives them an opportunity to go in and actually simulate what they would come in contact with if there was a mining disaster," said mine inspector Mike Rennie.

Miners had seventy minutes to run a course that looked more like a maze than a mine shaft. It took team work and quick thinking to complete the course within the time limit.

"We have simulations of bad roof, where they've caved roof, where they've had caved roof in the mine," said Rennie. "They have different scenarios of methane gas, low oxygen, and things like that would be simulated in a mine disaster."

When the timer starts, one person maps the crew's route and then tries to guide their team members through the course.

"We've got placers on the ground that say smoke and tell us if we're in gas, because we're all under full apparatus the whole time, you've got stoppings built out there, you have people behind barricades and rescue chambers," explained team captain Dustin Patterson.

Patterson says the knowledge and companionship the miners gain is the important part of the competition.

"It's almost like a military concept that you're all together and one together, because in an actual event that's all you're going to have. It's you and the guys with you and the other rescue team members"

Miners from Illinois and Indiana competed Wednesday. The winning team was comprised of local miners representing several different mines.