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Mine rescue teams exhibit skills

Simon Whitehouse
Northern News Services
Published Friday, June 22, 2012

Two mining company rescue teams will be advancing to bigger challenges after the 55th Annual Territorial Mine Rescue was held last Friday and Saturday.

NNSL photo/graphic

Members of the Diavik Diamond Mines Inc. underground mine rescue team work their way through the mock mine in the Underground Mine Obstacle Task, Saturday at the community arena parking lot. - Kevin Allerson/NNSL photo

Sponsored by the Workers Compensation and Safety Commission of the NWT and Nunavut (WCSC), the event saw the teams of Diavik Diamond Mine and BHP Billiton's Ekati Diamond Mine win the underground and surface mining categories, respectively.

Because mines are often secluded and don't have access to emergency services, the mines have their own trained teams, specializing in practical skills for everything from firefighting to first aid to road rescue.

The Ekati Diamond Mine surface team won the overall surface trophy as the result of coming in first in the surface written test, surface smoke and surface obstacle/extrication categories. The team was made up of captain Peter Devolder, vice-captain Glynn Normore, Darryl Klochko, Ryan Erickson, Donald Hebden, Gordon Frowen and Navid Taherdin.

Team Diavik, which included captain Kelsey Loessl, vice-captain Nathan Pitre, Brent Karstad, James Venera, Brad Rogers, Justin Grandjambe, coach John Arnold, assistant coach Tom Cheveldave and co-ordinator Alex Clinton, won three of seven events in the underground competition. The Diavik wins included the underground written test, underground smoke and the underground bench/field test events. As a result, they won overall in underground competition.

Though how they placed at the weekend event had no direct effect on further advancement to global regional or international competitions, representatives from both companies are excited that underground teams are now being invited to the Eighth International Mine Rescue Competition in Donetsk, Ukraine, this September.

"I think the key point is that the competition is a chance to benchmark against other teams here in the Northwest Territories," said Mike Lowing, superintendent of health and safety at Diavik, who oversees emergency teams at the company's properties.

"I think it is fair to say that the mine rescue program in the Northwest Territories can be seen as among the best in the world. You now have two teams, from Canada, from NWT and from two diamond mines that are going to the same international event."

Lowing said the invites to the Ukraine event, as well as the weekend showcase, demonstrates there is a high calibre of training and quality of the people involved in the rescue teams.

Both teams will also participate in the 11th Biennial National Western Regional Mine Rescue Competition in Fernie, B.C., in September 2013. This event typically has 10 teams each in underground and surface competitions. Diavik won the underground event there in 2009 and 2011.

Other team wins from the weekend included the Yukon's Minto Mine in surface practical bench, Snap Lake Diamond Mine in both rope rescue and underground obstacle, and Nunavut's Meadowbank Mine in fire fighting

"It is a public showcase for WSCC and it is a good news story normally," said Peter Bengts, chief inspector of mines at WSCC, of the annual event. "It is good competition and it is used as a measuring tool of the companies' ability to have teams that can respond to an emergency on their site."

In all, three teams competed in the underground category while four teams were in surface events.

Of the seven teams, six mines were represented in all as Ekati Mine was the only company to send both an underground and a surface team. Rio Tinto's Diavik Diamond Mine, De Beers Canada's Snap Lake Mine, Capstone Mining Corporation's Minto Mine, Agnico-Eagle's Meadowbank Mine and North American Tungsten's Tungsten Mine were all present.

On Friday night, firefighting competitions were held at Giant Mine. All day Saturday, teams were seen competing at the Yellowknife Community Arena parking lots and in some cases indoors at the curling club as well. Following this, an awards banquet was held at Explorer Hotel.

The event also took place in conjunction with the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines miners' picnic, which was also held at the arena parking lot.

Bengts estimated there were close to 300 people at the Saturday event and 180 people at the banquet.

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