Ontario Mine Rescue
Lessons Learned and Remembered
Emergencies don’t always teach hard lessons, sometimes – like two incidents on the same day within the last year – they underline how successfully older, valuable lessons learned.
The first, a mine fire at Alamos Gold’s Young-Davidson Mine not only tested the strength of the operation’s emergency response plan and its activation of Ontario Mine Rescue procedures, but demonstrated the importance of mutual aid, standardized training, and the leadership component of competition training.
The incident, which required mine rescue involvement for almost 11 hours, also illustrated the high level of commitment of mine rescue volunteers from multiple mines, most of whom were enjoying Father’s Day with their families, but promptly responded when called to action.
Alamos emergency procedures were efficient at protecting the 85 workers underground, establishing a management control group, and activating Ontario Mine Rescue procedure. The control group quickly recognized the need for additional resources, and issued a mutual aid call.
Kirkland Lake District mines had earlier recognized the need for mutual aid and prepared for it, not only by negotiating an agreement, but by also holding cross-training opportunities.
Volunteers from Alamos, supplemented by volunteers from Kirkland Lake Gold East Timmins and Kirkland Lake Gold Macassa Mine, formed five mine rescue teams to rescue two miners, safeguard the remaining workers, and extinguish an intense bolter fire on the 9800 Level.
While the captains of Teams 1, 2 and 3 were members of the Alamos’s 2016 competition team, three briefing officers, one from each of the three operations, were members of their mine’s 2016 competition teams. Jeff St-Martin of Alamos, Lino Therrien of KLG Macassa, and Lynne Thompson of KLG East Timmins, worked seamlessly with the Alamos control group and their teams.
During the incident, teams were kept busy. They first protected and removed an ill miner from a fresh air tent in a contaminated environment, before assessing and extinguishing the fire with AFFF; and then were re-directed to protect and remove another ill miner from a second fresh air tent, also in a contaminated environment.
On an on-going basis they monitored the fire site; re-applied the foam and extinguished the fire when it re-kindled; checked and cleared personnel from the mine below the 9800 Level; checked and reset fans on 6 Level; and evacuated the rest of the mine.
Teams spent a total of more than 10 hours under oxygen. Both casualties were treated for smoke inhalation at hospital, but were otherwise uninjured.
Meanwhile, an incident Primero’s Black Fox Mine further demonstrated the importance of the leadership component of competition training. A worker was pinned by loose that had fallen from the back, but within 15 minutes of a radio call for help by his partner, he was rescued – his partner dug him out and dragged him to safety – and receiving first aid.
The critical injury incident did not need a Mine Emergency Response that required mine operations to stop or OMR procedures to be activated. Nonetheless four trained mine rescuers, including the captain and two team members of Primero’s 2016 competition team, responded to the radio call, as did a supervisor and two other miners.
Their training kicked in as the “unofficial” rescue team under their own direction, used a first aid kit and a basket from a nearby refuge station to treat the casualty’s suspected broken vertebrae, and lacerations to the hands and face, and prepare him for transport with a backboard and cervical collar.
Only 45 minutes after arriving at the scene, they brought the casualty to surface using an underground personnel carrier and handed him off to Emergency Medical Services.
Both incidents underlined that valuable lessons learned, are well worth remembering.
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.