US university hosts mine rescue contest

EIGHT teams from three states competed in the annual University of Missouri-Rolla Mine Rescue Contest last week, the only such competition in the United States held underground.

Donna Schmidt

The contest at UMR’s experimental mine was co-hosted by the US Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA).

Trials were held in five divisions: Mine Rescue Problem, BG-4 Benchman’s Contest, BG-174 Benchman’s Contest, First Aid and Multi-Gas Instrument.

The eight US teams came primarily from Kentucky, New Mexico and Missouri.

Lafarge Limestone Raiders won the Mine Rescue division, followed by WIPP (Waste Isolation Pilot Project) Blue Team, Carmeuse Maysville Raiders, Mississippi Line and Doe Run Maroon Team.

In the BG-4 Benchman’s Contest, the top three placers in order were Doe Run Gray Team, Lafarge Limestone Raiders and WIPP Blue Team. The BG-174 Bench has Doe Run Maroon Team as tops, followed by host UMR’s Gold Team and Mississippi Lime.

WIPP Blue team took the gold in First Aid, while second went to Carmeuse Maysville Raiders and third to Intrepid. Tops in the Multi-Gas Instrument division was Lafarge Limestone Raiders, with UMR Gold Team and Doe Run Gray Team in second and third.

UMR and MSHA share the sentiment that having the annual competition is vital to the growth of the mine teams professionally, and the fact that it is held underground keeps the contests as true-to-life as possible.

“This contest is unique in that it is conducted in an underground environment, which would be more closely aligned in what would be expected in a real-life situation,” said MSHA deputy assistant secretary Bob Friend.

“Being underground makes perfect use of miners’ lamps and the equipment which they would use in an underground rescue or recovery activity.”

UMR chair for the Department of Mining and Nuclear Energy, Larry Grayson, agreed that the realism the experimental mine allows for is a much better way to draw on miners’ skills – and it showed in the results.

“The Mine Safety and Health Administration always devises challenging problems, which require rule-based discipline in solving a problem, special anticipation of what the clues mean in the broad context of the overall situation, and innovative actions for carrying out exploration so that team safety is preserved while survivors are rescued safely,” Grayson said.

“The top teams performed extremely well in solving a very tough problem this year, which involved bad roof conditions, high methane readings, and some inundation.”

Additionally, he said, the teams learn new, vital techniques and skills from every competition they complete in such a realistic environment, information which carries over to the members of UMR’s mining engineering program.

“The most important aspect of the mine rescue contest is competition under pressure, which sharpens the teams’ skills periodically to better respond to potential disasters,” said Grayson.

“The UMR students pick up a unique set of skills among mining engineering students in the US.”

The development of the UMR team which competed made an impact on MSHA from a safety perspective as the industry moves into the future with a close eye on health and safety issues.

“With UMR putting a team together, it speaks volumes,” said Friend.

“They are obviously teaching their mining engineering students safety with the mine rescue teams, and that bodes well for the future of people who will one day be running the mines.”

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