Mine rescue teams train at Missouri concrete plant

Mine rescue teams from around the Midwest took part Friday in a safety exercise at the Central Plains Cement Company in Sugar Creek, Missouri.

Mine rescue teams from around the Midwest exercised and compared notes Friday at the Central Plains Cement Company in Sugar Creek. Missouri.

“We have got to get the rest of the mining community trained up,” said John Urosek, chief of mine emergency operations with the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration.

Plant manager Chris Thrower said the Sugar Creek plant has set production records this year but that none of that matters if there are injuries or fatalities.

He cited a motto posted where visitors see it at the front office: “‘No job is so urgent that we cannot perform our work safely.’ And I mean that when I say that.” Nine rescue teams were on hand Friday.

“It’s really important to do drills like this because you really see what you might get into,” Thrower said.

The event included four exercises: underground communications, surface and mine emergency operations, rescue in a smoke-filled environments, and injury triage.

Urosek said the key is building capacity – the right equipment and people trained to use it – around the country.

“One thing in mine rescue – you have to have a lot of tools,” he said.

For example, the buildup of smoke in underground mines is an immediate risk to miners and it greatly complicates finding them. Robots and drones could someday change that, Urosek said, but for now the MSHA has just one robot with a 3,000-foot tether for control – radio doesn’t work underground – and many mines go far more than 3,000 past the mine entrance. Drones could help a lot, he said.

“We’re actively hoping to have that in a few years,” he said.

Drager Safety of Pittsburgh was on hand to make its U.S. introduction of a new product, the MRV-9000, a truck outfitted with cameras, gas detectors and oxygen. It can be driven into a mine, and once rescuers get a downed miner inside, the back portion of the vehicle in pressurized so rescuers can shed their pressurized suits and more easily deal with any medical problems.

The company has built two, at about $400,000, for a remote gold mine in northwestern Ontario. So far those are the only ones in North America.

Joe Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health, said the country needs a stronger capacity to respond to mine accidents, and he said the people who work in mines are owed that.

“Feedback from you today is really important,” he told the nine teams on Friday.


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