Team at mine rescue station in Timmins. Kneeling (L to R): Rory Grunerud and Jake Gram; standing (L to R): Kyle Foster, Jetzen Loo, Josh Arnaly, Jesse Newmarch, Jose Martinez and Jeff LaMarsh | Photo courtesy of Rory Grunerud
Over the last year, the mining industry has experienced several high-profile incidents around the globe that have highlighted the need for both increased
awareness of underground safety and emergency response-trained personnel. To address this issue, at the start of this school year, students in the mining
engineering program at the University of British Columbia (UBC) created Canada’s only university mine rescue team, one of only a few student teams in North
An eight-person squad of students was assembled to be trained in mine rescue, encompassing such disciplines as firefighting, first aid, patient extraction,
ropes deployment, smoke exploration and situation risk management. Through the generous support of sponsors (BHP Billiton, Goldcorp, Shell, Total E&P,
Imperial Metals, SMS Equipment, Newmont, the Canadian Mineral Processors Society of CIM, Syncrude, MineSight, North American Tungsten and the Association
of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of B.C. [APEGBC]), enough funds were raised to purchase the bulk of the specialized safety equipment and
supplies needed to outfit an entire team in the first year. To test its mettle, the newly formed team accepted an invitation to participate in the 1st
Biannual University Mine Rescue Competition hosted by the Colorado School of Mines in Denver, Colorado, in February.
The team accepted an offer from Goldcorp to train for a week with their Ontario provincial championship mine rescue team based at the Porcupine Mine in
Timmins, Ontario. We were trained on the workings of the BG-4 closed-circuit breathing apparatus, as well as on specific tools utilized by a mine rescue
team, including thermal imagers, immobilization boards, CAREvent automatic resuscitators and various types of self rescuers. The training included multiple
simulations in which complex incidents with evolving situations and danger levels were completed. This fostered teamwork and reinforced skills learned, but
more importantly, helped to develop risk management skills. By the end of the week, the training experience had molded each member by arming them with
basic knowledge to function and operate as a cohesive mine rescue team.
At the competition in Denver, the UBC team competed against both the Colorado School of Mines men’s and women’s teams, and Pennsylvania State University.
It was a grueling competition that pushed each team to its mental and physical limits, demanding four hours on oxygen and the extraction of live casualties
that weighed in excess of 136 kilograms. It was a fantastic event that exposed the teams to a great deal of safety methodologies, new techniques,
communication and teamwork. In the end, our training with Goldcorp paid off as UBC was declared the overall winner. In five skill-based competitions held
the next day, we won three events – rope rescue, patient extraction and fire fighting.
With the first operational year complete and a competition victory under our belt, the team is now looking at becoming more involved in the British
Columbia provincial mine rescue competition and will hopefully field a demonstration team in the next few years. At the university level, there has been
tremendously positive feedback following our debut performance and the dedication shown by the team members to a culture of safety. Hopefully, student mine
rescue teams will be created at other Canadian universities in the near future. In the meantime, our team will continue to promote the issue of safety and
keep working at perfecting our skill sets.