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Mine Rescue Teams Turn Up the Heat

June 15, 2017

In the blazing sun of the hottest week of 2017 thus far, nine area mine safety and rescue teams battled it out in competition at the sixth annual Mine Safety and Rescue Skills Competition at Southeastern Illinois College in partnership with Illinois Eastern Community Colleges (IECC), June 13 and 14. 

On the first day of competition, the Gateway Mine team, trained by Tom Patterson, took first place, followed by the Foresight Energy-White team, trained by Wes Campbell in second.

Day two of competition saw the Foresight Energy-Blue team of MaRyan Mining, LLC, trained by Wes Campbell, in first place and the Foresight Energy-South team of Viking Mining, trained by Girolamo Intravaia, in second place. 

The grand championship trophy for the two-day event went to the Foresight Energy-Blue team.  This award honors the late Tim Kirkpatrick, a 41-year veteran of the coal industry, member of the Illinois State Mining Board and long-time advocate of mine safety.

Although it is a competition, these teams do not just battle it out for bragging rights.  The event provides training for very serious emergency situations that could happen during work in a coal mine. 

Director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Tom Benner was on hand during the second day of competition. 

“We are just so impressed with the facilities the colleges have put together out here where these guys can get some experience in competition,” said Benner.  “It’s really unlike your regular mine rescue competition – it’s set up as more of a learning environment designed to help these guys be better prepared.  Hopefully they never have to use it in real life, but it’s always better to be prepared.”

Benner, who worked for Peabody Energy for many years has been out to SIC’s training facilities in the past, and said he knows just how much has to get done in order to pull off an event like this and make it successful. 

The competition consists of six rounds of exercises that include fire training in the burn tunnel, smoke training and mapping in the new simulated mine training facility, hose management, gas testing, field rescue, first aid, and written testing.

Diane Russell, who works for IECC’s mining program in cooperation with SIC said, “In the last 15 years or so there have been disasters in West Virginia, out West, and in Pennsylvania. We train miners in our region so they can have the confidence to handle it if a situation occurs.  The hands-on training they receive here can give them the know-how, which will help them to stay calm in a real emergency, which could ultimately save lives.”

Sen. Dale Fowler also stopped by to help kick off the competition and see the new Simulated Mine Training Facility.  A member of the Coal Development Board, Fowler spoke of his recent underground visit to Hamilton County Mine and addressed those who participate on both ends of the safety training.

“Mining is part of the heritage of southern Illinois, and we appreciate what you do to keep the mines safe,” said Fowler.

Funds for the training facility and equipment came from a Coal Competitiveness Grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Development, SIC, IECC, and Prairie State Generating Company.

Mine safety teams competing this year included Foresight Energy (three teams) from MaRyan Mining, LLC in Dorchester, Illinois, and Viking Mine in Macedonia, Illinois; Gateway North Mine (Peabody Energy) in Coulterville, Illinois; Hamilton County Coal, LLC in Dahlgren, Illinois; Knight Hawk Coal in Cutler, Illinois; Prairie State Generating Company in Marissa, Illinois; Sunrise Coal Mine Rescue Team from Oaktown, Indiana; and Wildcat Hills Mine in Equality, Illinois.

SIC and IECC provide year-round training for the coal mining industry, and plan to extend use of the mine simulation facility to train those in other industries for potential disasters, as well.  More than 1,000 miners go through mine training programs at SIC each year, between 300 and 500 of them being new to coal mining.  For more information about mine training and scheduling, contact Kimberly Oliver at 618-252-5400, ext. 2360 or kimberly.oliver@sic.edu.

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