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Mine rescue teams hone skills

Northern News Services
Wednesday, June 13, 2007

YELLOWKNIFE - Mine rescue teams from the NWT and Nunavut battled it out Friday and Saturday during the annual mine rescue competition.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Members of De Beers' Snap Lake mine rescue team work on actors pretending to be mine accident victims. On the team are Danielle Dunn, James Grandville, Kris Shostal, Darren Raymond, Kevin Buffitt and Todd Hayward. - Jessica Klinkenberg/NNSL photo

Overall surface winner:
Tahera Diamond Corporation (Jericho diamond mine)

Overall Underground winner:
BHP Billiton Ekati

Teams competing:
- BHP Billiton Ekati - two teams: surface and underground
- Tahera Diamond Corporation - surface
- Diavik Diamond Mine - underground
- De Beers Snap Lake - underground
- North American Tunsten CanTung - underground

But while the five teams tested their skills for surface and underground supremacy, it was also a chance to compare notes and improve their capabilities.

During the event, rescue teams from Ekati, Jericho, Diavik, Snap Lake and CanTung mines battled fires, tied ropes, and worked through a mine collapse scenario.

"See what she did? She didn't lie to the patient, she told her that it would hurt," said St. John Ambulance first aid instructor Shelley Cuthbert as she watched Snap Lake's Danielle Dunn work with an actress playing an injured miner.

This was the first year De Beers has entered a team in the competition and Dunn said her team, under captain Darren Raymond, worked hard to do Snap Lake proud.

For the team representing BHP Billiton's Ekati mine, the competition is a learning experience.

This year, team members wore gloves for the first time.

"In past years we've used bare hands to solve problems," said Ekati team captain Peter Devolder.

"As far as training and competing, it makes us stronger."

The mine collapse scenario was arranged by Yellowknife's Search and Rescue team.

Jim Martin, president and director of operations and senior search manager, said the organization was approached three years ago to set up a scenario that the rescue teams would encounter.

"It's based on what you're going to find in a mining situation."

Martin said that the way the competition is set up there's no way anyone will know what they're walking into when they reach the scene, but the key in any emergency is to keep calm.

"They can't be surprised. A disaster is a disaster."

Martin is also in charge in providing an evaluation of how the teams did, which he then passes on to the mines, letting them know what they need to work on.

Ron Messier, who coaches first aid at Snap Lake mine, along with Jose Godoy and Lex Lovatt, said the competition held during NWT Mining Week allows the rescue team members from various mines get to know one another.

"If ever there's an emergency they would all be working together," said Messier.

Lovatt said that working in the scenarios help the mine rescue teams in the long run.

"One of the (most important things) is giving the mine rescue personnel the confidence to deal with emergencies."

Accidents don't happen a lot at the mines, but the teams still put in a lot of hours in training.

By law, the teams need to have a minimum of 40 hours of training a year, or eight hours every eight weeks.

"We came close to 200 hours coming into this," Messier said.