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Mine Rescue Competition, Testing Rescue Crews

From humble beginnings 20 years ago, the Victorian Mine Rescue Competition has emerged as a well-respected, highly competitive national event. With teams entering from across the nation, the Victorian Mine Rescue Competition (VMRC) has become a truly national event.

Teams come from mines that extract the multitude of commodities that Australia is famous for, testing their skills against teams operating in many different environments. The sharing of knowledge and experience enables mine rescue personnel to be called upon to serve not only in their own operations but operations throughout the state and across the country. Having a significant pool of highly trained rescue personnel across Australia contributes greatly to the minerals industry’s commitment to zero harm.

Victoria, a small State geographically, has much to be proud of. Victoria has large open cut coal mines that provide almost all of Victoria’s power generation needs, gold fields that have been operating on and off for over 150 years and significantly contributed to prosperity of the State, as well as re-emerging base metals mines in the eastern part of the State. With such a long and proud mining history, the commitment to safety and health in the minerals industry is paramount. Mine rescue capability provides the assurance that on the rare occasion that an incident occurs on a mining site, we have the best people in place to respond. Mine rescue personnel are without doubt the most dedicated individuals you could have the pleasure of knowing. The absolute commitment of these people in times of significant duress is admirable indeed.

Image courtesy of VMRC

Image courtesy of VMRC

What started out 20 years ago as a demonstration of mine rescue techniques became the Victorian Mine Rescue Competition, when Orica Australia and Drager Australia, put forward trophies for the event and three teams were invited to participate: Stawell Gold Mines and Benambra Mine from Victoria, and Woodlawn Mine from N.S.W. Due to an incident at the Benambra Mine the week prior, the Benambra team was unable to compete. From that initial competition at Wonthaggi, the VMRC has become one of Australia’s leading competitive events with teams coming from across the nation each year to test their mine rescue skills.

The Victorian Mine Rescue Competition is run as a mine rescue and emergency response capacity building exercise. The competition, which has been running since 1993, sees mine rescue and emergency response teams from mine sites around Australia compete against each other in a variety of simulated emergency situations to put their skills to the test, and share their extensive knowledge with each other.

The competition is undertaken with realistic simulations using volunteers acting as patients made up to show various injuries and placed in simulated accident scenarios. The equipment used by teams is as they would have in a real life situation.

The main competition events are divided into a number of different categories which include:

  • First Aid.
  • Fire fighting.
  • Rope rescue.
  • Search and rescue.
  • Breathing Apparatus.
  • Combined Team event (Spencer Herd Challenge).

Fire Fighting has become one of the more spectacular parts of the event. Fire is one of the major concerns for mine workers and management, with a real threat to life and mining infrastructure. The remoteness of many mines results in the need for self-sufficiency, as government agencies may be hours away, if available at all. The disruption to a mine through fire could also be significant with repair and/or replacements of equipment taking months. Firefighters depend on their own skills to contain fires along with the built in detection and suppression equipment specifically designed for mining. Recent fires in an open cut coal mine in southeast Australia saw significant loss of equipment and disruption to the community.

Teams are scored on their practical skills as well as their theoretical knowledge with a combination of time taken and the safe manner in which the team acted towards both the victim and team members. The Spencer Herd Challenge looks at leadership and team safety along with the manner in which the task was completed.

Image courtesy of VMRC

Image courtesy of VMRC

Summary
With teams entering from across the nation, the VMRC has become a truly national event. The sharing of knowledge and experience enables mine rescue personnel to be called upon not only in their own operations but operations throughout the state and across the country. Having a significant pool of highly trained rescue personnel across Australia contributes greatly to the minerals industry’s commitment to zero harm.

The 2015 Victorian Mine Rescue Competition will be held at Energy Australia’s Yallourn mine in the Latrobe Valley 16th – 18th October.

For further information, go to www.minerals.org.au/divisions/victoria/vmrc

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Asia Pacific Fire, Editor