Canadian mine rescue team best in the world

Mine rescuers from Kirkland Lake Gold were crowned world champions by Workplace Safety North and Ontario Mine Rescue as the overall winners of the 10th International Mines Rescue Competition.
During the competition, held Aug. 19 to 25 in Sudbury, Ont., 27 mine rescue teams from 13 nations around the world were evaluated on their firefighting skills, first-aid response, high angle rope rescue skills, use of emergency equipment and decision-making ability under stress in a simulated underground emergency.

The Kirkland Lake, Ontario, team of Terry McKnight, Jonathan Boutin, Hubert Gour, Alex Thompson, Norm Gannon Jr., Jason Dicaire, Ben Young, Lynne Thompson and Scott Gillett, became the first Canadian team to win the event.

“Some competitors that we were competing against, especially from the eastern European countries — Poland, Slovakia, Russia and Ukraine — these are all professional mine rescue men. This is their job, so that kind of added an interesting element to it and a bit of pressure, but we basically tackled the problem the way we know how to tackle them and put it all out there,” Alex Thompson, team

captain for Kirkland Lake, told the CBC, adding the vast majority of mine rescuers across Canada are volunteers.

The international competition, held for the first time in Canada, is organized every two years to provide an opportunity for mine rescue organizations to share and improve mine rescue knowledge and practices through global co-operation. Previous competitions have been held around the world in Europe, Asia and Australia.

“While the competition allowed some of the most highly trained mine rescuers in the world to test their skills, it also allowed teams to return home with leading-edge ideas, equipment and procedures to help reduce the risk of underground mine rescue work,” said Ted Hanley, general manager, Ontario Mine Rescue.

Ireland’s Boliden Tara Mines finished second, while the KGHM White Eagles of Poland finished third in the overall competition.

Kirkland Lake also won the underground emergency simulation event, beating second-place Compass Minerals Goderich Mine — this year’s Ontario Mine Rescue champion — and Boliden Tara Mines in third.

During the underground emergency scenario, five-member teams had to build a wall in a smoke-filled, heated environment to change mine ventilation due to a fire, and find two missing miners. One of the miners was found impaled on a length of rebar, further challenging teams’ first-aid skills.

“These competitions are set up to learn from and to have people that are placed within the company that are able to have the next level of training and the ability to respond to these things,” said Thompson. “It’s really important that these competitions test our ability to make decisions.”

Compass Minerals Goderich Mine won the theory event, which tests team members on their knowledge of mine gases, firefighting and emergency response activities.

Two other Canadian teams also earned honours. Cameco McArthur River from Saskatchewan placed second in the high angle rope rescue event and third in the firefighting and first-aid events. Hometown favourites, Vale’s Sudbury West Mines in Ontario placed third in high angle rope rescue and theory events.

This article originally appeared in the October/November 2016 issue of COS.