Ontario Mine Rescue
Competition Season Launches
Preparations underway for District, Provincial and International events
This year promises to be a long competition season for at least one Ontario Mine Rescue team, and anyone interested in mine rescue.
With training already underway for the district competitions – May 11 to 13 across the province – for the team that represents Ontario Mine Rescue in the 10th International Mines Rescue Competition, August 19 to 26 in Sudbury, the season will end with that event.
While the winner of the Ontario Mine Rescue Provincial Competition, June 9 and 10, is guaranteed entry into IMRC 2016 – Canada, hosted by Workplace Safety North’s Ontario Mine Rescue, five Ontario teams have applied and are currently on the waiting list for admission to the event.
Sixteen mine rescue teams from nine countries have applied and been accepted as of May 3 for the 30-team competition. Four positions are reserved for the winners of four major Canadian regional mine rescue competitions, such as the Ontario Mine Rescue Provincial Competition.Two other Canadian teams, from Manitoba and Saskatchewan, are on the waiting list. Canadian admission is currently limited to allow as many international teams as possible to participate. Visit www.IMRC2016.ca for an up-to-date list of accepted teams and the waiting list.
IMRC 2016 Planning Co-ordinator and Secretary General of the International Mines Rescue Body, Alex Gyska says more international teams are expected to register.
Several countries have been in contact, and at least one plans to enter multiple teams, he says.
“In terms of team registration, we’re way ahead of previous (international) competitions,” Gryska says.
Seven of the 13 countries that attended the last IMRC in Poland, have yet to register and most have been in contact. Organizers are anticipating the largest international competition to date.
Whether there will be room for Canadian and Ontario teams that are on the waiting list remains to be seen, Gryska says.
The safest, though not necessarily the easiest, way for an Ontario team to secure an entry into the international competition, is to win the provincial competition, says Ted Hanley, Ontario Mine Rescue General Manager.
An alternate route for Ontario mine rescuers to be involved in the international competition is to participate as judges or as volunteers.
Though IMRC 2016 will be the first international competition with international judging, the majority of judges will be from Ontario. Approximately two-thirds of the more than 80 applicants to be judges are from Ontario, most are current volunteers.
For non-participants, all three levels of competition – district, provincial and international – are open to the public.
This year’s provincial competition will be held at NORCAT’s Underground Centre, the former Fecunis Mine, in Onaping, northwest of Sudbury. As in recent competitions, the underground activities will be streamed to viewers on surface.
Spectators will also be able to view the IMRC 2016’s underground emergency scenario at Vale’s 114 Orebody near Copper Cliff Mine on video, a first for an international competition.
The remaining venues for the first aid, firefighting, high angle rope rescue, and technician events have not yet been announced, but will also be open to the public.
Testing Toughness: Evaluating Mine Rescue Equipment
Mine rescue volunteers in Southern District gave two Draeger FPS 7000 facemask units with FPS COM communication module attachments a thorough product evaluation – smoke; foam; salt; heat; humidity . . . and the substation sink.
At first volunteers are reluctant to put the entire unit in soapy water to disinfect them, said Dan Rulli, Southern District’s Mine Rescue Officer, but they have been washed and heat-dried several times, as well as covered in firefighting foam, and should see much rougher conditions and treatment before the evaluation period is ended.
The pilot project is a result of growing concern over the quality of communications and the potential hazard poor communications presents to a team during an emergency mine rescue response. While the communication infrastructure in mines varies, Ontario Mine Rescue wants to eliminate any communication difficulties caused by mine rescue equipment, policy or procedure.
Draeger says the FPS 7000 facemask and the FPS COM communications module, which includes a diaphragm and amplifier, is submersible in water, has a wide field of vision, and does not fog. The facemask, though relatively new to mine rescue uses, is already in use with fire departments.
“It definitely felt easier breathing,” and communications with the team was easier, said Pete Kohnert, a 20-year veteran mine rescue volunteer at Compass Minerals’ Goderich Mine, following a recent training session with the units.
“It should be really helpful in smoke and noisy conditions,” Kohnert said.
Voices seemed clearer and more audible with the unit, and visibility with the facemask was also better, said mine rescuer Matt Drennan. The fit and weight is slightly different from the Panorama Nova mask currently used, he said, and will require some time to get used to.
The Panorama mask has caused difficulty not only while speaking into phones and radios, but also during inter-team communication.
Kohnert, acting as captain, and Drennan, acting as vice-captain, each wore a FPS 7000 with the communication module for several hours during an underground exercise as their team travelled by foot and vehicle in the cavernous salt mine to spray foam from the compressed air foam system on a “fuel spill.”
The communications module features a mechanical speech diaphragm and a voice amplifier with speakers on the left and right side of the mask, as well as an earpiece and hardwire link to a handheld radio.
Rulli told the volunteers that the units will not improve a mine’s leaky feeder radio system – dead areas will still be dead areas – but should improve the ability of the captain and vice-captain to communicate to the team, as well as their ability to hear radio communications from the briefing officer.
“I wanted to experiment, but didn’t have much time,” said Drennan, who nonetheless gave the unit a thumbs up based on his brief appraisal time.
Kohnert agreed. “I think it’s a good idea. It certainly serves a purpose.”
After the exercise, Drennan and Kohnert completed an evaluation form asking them to describe the environmental conditions; to rate various comfort and wearability factors, such as weight and air flow; to rate different communication module functions, including volume and hardwire connections; and a series of questions on performance and practice.
Though only the captain and vice-captain in exercises wear the units, non-wearers are also asked to complete the evaluation, Rulli said, noting that not only their ability to hear communications, but their opinion on how the units could be incorporated into mine rescue practices and procedures, is important.
The two trial units are now in Kirkland Lake District for further evaluation. A report based on the evaluations will be presented to the Ontario Mine Rescue Technical Advisory Committee to determine if the units meet the requirements of the mine rescue program.
Ontario Mine Rescue, a part of Workplace Safety North (WSN), has trained and equipped thousands of volunteers who have fought fires, rescued injured personnel, and responded professionally to a wide array of incidents in the province's mines over the past eight decades.
Under the authority of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and headquartered in Sudbury, Ontario Mine Rescue staffs, equips and maintains a network of mine rescue stations across the province that ensure mines within a specified geographic area have adequate emergency response capability.
Our role includes delivering training to first responders, providing consultations, conducting periodic audits, ensuring WSN-owned equipment is maintained to manufacturers' recommended standards, and providing advice during mine emergencies.
Since its creation in 1929, Ontario Mine Rescue has established a reputation for high standards in training, equipment and emergency response, as well as in the development of safe, effective mine rescue practices. We have served as a role model for the establishment of training and safety programs for mine rescue organizations in other provinces and countries.
WSN maintains a Mine Rescue Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) that provides advice and guidance to Ontario Mine Rescue. Under the leadership of the committee, we remain committed to continual improvement, ensuring the mining industry's mine rescue needs are met.