The simulated mine emergency was held at Civic Park in Singleton, New South Wales as part of the inaugural Hunter Coal Festival, a three-week event that celebrates the mining industry’s contribution to the region.
The simulation took place in mid-March, mimicking a real-life mine emergency situation wherein a worker had been trapped beneath an underground coal loader (supplied for the demonstration by Sandvik).
First on the scene was the rescue team from Peabody Energy’s open-cut and underground Wambo mine in North Wambo. The Wambo team – winner of the last six consecutive Hunter Valley Mines Rescue competitions – used airbags to lift the machine and safely extract the worker before administering first aid. Next, Coal Services’ NSW Mines Rescue team arrived on-site to provide assistance in stabilising the situation and assisting the casualty. Upon the local ambulance’s arrival, the “injured” worker was released into the paramedics’ care, and finally, the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service landed to transport the patient to hospital.
Mines Rescue regional manager David Connell, an internationally renowned emergency response expert that provided assistance at the Beaconsfield mine collapse in 2006, partnered with Beaconsfield mine survivor Brant Webb in providing a running commentary on each step that occurred during the simulation.
Connell told Quarry the simulation had been designed to show how the collective emergency response services worked closely together to protect mine workers. While he said these types of serious incidents were infrequent, he emphasised that the first few minutes after they occurred were critical in determining the outcome of a casualty.
“Having rescue teams on-site to capably and confidently respond is a must,” he said. “The best way to achieve this is to provide our teams with regular, realistic and repeated training.”
Connell recommended that quarry operators develop planned, established and rehearsed emergency procedures to ensure they were prepared for these situations.
“It is important that you have emergency management plans in place, an appropriate number of employees trained in rescue and first aid, emergency response roles defined and accurate details of mine locations – including the co-ordinate names for helipads and cross streets – for responding emergency services,” he said.
Although the main function of the industry-owned organisation is to provide critical service and expertise to the coal mining industry, Connell said Coal Services could also assist quarry operators with developing, auditing, conducting training for, and holding site simulations of emergency procedures through its Mines Rescue division.