The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration commemorated the second annual Mine Rescue Day on Thursday, Oct. 30, during a meeting of the Holmes Mine Rescue Association at the National Mine Health and Safety Academy in Beaver, W.Va.
“Mine rescue is among the most risky and challenging rescue work undertaken in this country,” said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. “These brave rescuers often travel miles in the dark, navigating underground mine workings filled with debris and poisonous and explosive gases after devastating mine fires, explosions or cave-ins, trying to find missing miners or recovering those who did not survive. We owe these volunteers from the mining community the best training and support available for such high-risk missions. And on Mine Rescue Day, we especially owe them the recognition they deserve for putting their own lives on the line to help their fellow miners.”
On this date last year, the newly created national Holmes Mine Rescue Association, which mine emergency response stakeholders overwhelmingly supported, formally came into existence. The HMRA provides support and guidance for mine rescue to the more than 13,000 mines throughout the country. It also serves as a vehicle to disseminate guidelines, training and tools to the mining community.
In 2010, MSHA began an extensive review of mining community’s mine emergency response strategies to identify shortcomings, and that evaluation process has resulted in several actions and improvements. In addition to the creation of the HMRA MSHA has:
- Invested in the development of state-of-the-art technology to make mine rescue safer and quicker.
- Added a new mine rescue response station in Madisonville, Ky., to service the Midwest.
- Upgraded the agency’s mobile response vehicles and command center equipment.
- Held mock mine emergencies with mining companies.
- Revised the criteria for mine rescue team certification to include hands-on skills training.
- Overhauled the national mine rescue training contests, which has led to greater stakeholder participation.