Eight teams from mines across the Lithgow, Mudgee and Gunnedah mining regions competed at the annual Western Mines Rescue competition on Friday, 1 September 2023.
Centennial Coal’s Springvale team won the underground competition and will represent the district at the Australian Mines Rescue underground competition to be held in Queensland next month. The Centennial Coal team from Clarence mine were named runners-up.
Springvale team captain, Luke Smith, praised his team for their performance.
“The competition today had challenging scenarios but it brought us back to the basics that we learn at training. To my team, you’ve worked really hard and you deserve this. I’ve been to about twelve competitions; and I’ve learnt from and looked up to some of the best captains including Ben Kelly, Ross Dowsett and Graham (Charlie) Healey. This is my first time as a captain and I’ve had the best team to work with. I’d also like to thank Mines Rescue for their training and Centennial for their support,” he said.
Traditionally, mines rescue competitions have focused on underground emergency response, however, this year’s event included two open cut teams reflecting the importance of emergency preparedness in both types of mining operations. Glencore’s Ulan Surface Operations were named the best open cut team on the day with Yancoal’s Moolarben Open Cut team runners-up.
Greg Reynolds, who captained the Ulan Surface Operations team, reflected on their achievements.
“Competitions are always an awesome opportunity, really testing our skills and pushing us to our limits. The car accident scenario really demonstrated how the skills we learn in mine rescue training can be applied in any situation. We recently won the Western Region First Aid competition, which was a great warm up for today. Our team performed great; we had a mix of first timers and experienced members, and it was my first time as captain. Behind the scenes, Ellen Mahne was the driving force so we thank her for her role in getting us here today, as well as the support from Mines Rescue and Glencore,” he said.
The teams worked through a series of scenarios to test their emergency preparedness capabilities, teamwork and communication skills in a high-pressure environment. The events were designed to simulate situations teams would most likely face should they be called to respond to a real-life incident.
All teams were assessed on their knowledge of theory, while practical exercises included a mass casualty first aid event and fire-fighting. Underground exercises for mines rescue brigades included search and rescue, monitoring mine conditions and managing hazards. Exercises for surface teams involved responding to a road vehicle crash, performing a vertical rescue and a confined space rescue.
Mark D’Elboux, Regional Manager Western Mines Rescue, explained that the primary purpose of Mines Rescue is to provide emergency response to the NSW coal mining industry in the case of an emergency.
“Fortunately, major incidents requiring brigade response are limited but events like these allow brigade members to practice and hone a range of skills that can be used at work as well as in the community.”
Mr D’Elboux also thanked Glencore for partnering with Western Mines Rescue to host parts of the competition at their Ulan mine.
“A great deal of preparation and organisation is required to make these competitions as realistic and lifelike as possible. I would like to thank everyone from our team and from across the industry who contributed to the day’s success. Being able to use Glencore’s Ulan mine facilities enabled us to take the competition to another level,” he said.
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