Mine rescue is an operation you hope you never need to perform. But in the event that you do, you’d better be prepared.
Randy Squires, Senior Manager for Regional Safety Relations at Newmont, speculates this may be the sentiment of every mining company. At Newmont, however, it’s much more than a sentiment. It is a commitment.
Determined to safely return employees and contractors to their homes and families at the end of each work day, Newmont has created a culture in which all employees – whether they work at a mine site or in an office building – are expected to manage the risks of their jobs and choose more safe behaviors.
It is a culture built upon safety standards and practices that have become second nature for employees. For instance, employees engage in safety interactions to better understand the impact and influence they have on one another’s wellbeing. And, perhaps most importantly, we provide our people with the education and training to be prepared for practically every situation.
Among the most intense training is that in which our mine rescue teams participate. Though the team structure may vary from region to region, the goal is the same – to make sure everyone goes home safe every day.
In Nevada, eight to nine employees from each shift at our mines volunteer for additional, specialized emergency training and stand ready to respond. Randy explains that, although team members are volunteers, tryouts ensure that the mine rescue team comprises the most qualified and skilled individuals.
Our Waihi, New Zealand operations take a similar approach, recruiting 18 volunteers from across the mine for its rescue team. Those who are selected engage in a monthly seven-hour training session at the mine site that uses drills and simulations to test and strengthen their skills. Training covers hazardous chemical emergency response, firefighting, underground rescue, rope rescue, confined space rescue, and wildlife rescue. In addition, miners receive training as emergency medical technicians.
Newmont’s standards for mine rescue are as high at our African operations as they are elsewhere in the world. However, the teams face unique challenges in that the mining industry is relatively new. Bryan Lewis, Regional Emergency Response and Hazmat Manager for Newmont’s Africa operations, explains that as an emerging market, Ghana is in the process of developing the type of health and safety standards that have been in place for several decades in more developed countries.
This means that skills need to be developed at a basic level and that mine rescue teams must be built from the ground up. Newmont has done this by making mine rescue a full-time, paid position. At our Ahafo mine, each of the mine’s four teams comprises five people, plus one emergency response team coordinator. At our Akyem project, there are three teams of five people and a team coordinator. All teams train 12 hours a day, six days a week.
While mine rescue may rarely, if ever, be needed at a mine, Newmont’s emergency response teams also serve the communities in and around our operations. Local municipalities have called upon our teams to assist with motor vehicle accidents, staff community events and provide health and safety tips to local schools. Our Waihi team recently assisted local emergency response units in a real-life search effort in a nearby bay.
In addition, many of our teams engage in routine practice drills with local government organizations and emergency units, which allow team members to share their expertise and broaden their own skill set.
Through training and community service our mine rescue teams are able to stay in practice and at the top of their game. It’s part of how they – and we – work toward keeping the people, environment and communities at and near our operations safe.