Mine rescue is the specialized job of rescuing miners and others who have become trapped or injured in underground mines because of mining accidents, roof falls or floods and disasters such as explosions caused by firedamp.
Mining laws in developed countries require trained, equipped mine rescue personnel to be available at all mining operations at surface and underground mining operations. Mine rescue teams must know the procedures used to rescue miners trapped by various hazards, including fire, explosions, cave-ins, toxic gas, smoke inhalation, and water entering the mine. Most mine rescue teams are composed of miners who know the mine and are familiar with the mine machinery they may encounter during the rescue, the layout of workings and geological conditions and working practices. Local and state governments may have teams on call ready to respond to mine accidents.
Rescuers and equipment
The first mines rescuers were the colliery managers and volunteer colleagues of the victims of the explosions, roof-falls and other accidents underground. They looked for signs of life, rescued the injured, sealed off underground fires so it would be possible to reopen the pit, and recovered bodies while working in dangerous conditions sometimes at great cost to themselves. Apart from safety lamps to detect gases, they had no special equipment. Most deaths in coal mines were caused by the poisonous gases caused by explosions, particularly "afterdamp" or carbon monoxide. Survivors of explosions were rare and most apparatus taken underground was used to fight fires or recovery of bodies. Early breathing apparatus derived from under-sea diving was developed and a crude nose and mouthpiece and breathing tubes was tried in France before 1800. "Gas masks" of various types were tried in the early 19th century: some had chemical filters, others goat skin reservoirs and then metal canisters, but none eliminated carbon dioxide rendering them of limited use. Theodore Schwann, a German professor working in Belgium, designed breathing apparatus on the regenerative process in 1854 and it was exhibited in Paris in the 1870s but may never have been used
Henry Fleuss developed Schwann's apparatus into a form of self-contained breathing apparatus in the 1880s and it was used after an explosion at Seaham Colliery in 1881. The apparatus was further developed by Siebe Gorman into the Proto rebreather. In 1908 the Proto apparatus was chosen in a trial of equipment from several manufacturers to select the most efficient apparatus for use underground at Howe Bridge Mines Rescue Station and became the standard in rescue stations set up after the 1911 act. An early use of the breathing apparatus was in the aftermath of an explosion at the Maypole Colliery in Abram in August 1908. The six trained rescuers at Howe Bridge then trained men at individual collieries in the use of the equipment and at the time of the Pretoria Pit Disaster in 1910 several hundred trained men participated in the operation.
Mine rescue teams are trained in first aid and the use of a variety of tools, and the operation of self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) to work in passages filled with mine gases such as firedamp, afterdamp, chokedamp, and sometimes shallow submersion.
From 1989 to 2004 the SEFA backpack SCBA was made. Rescuers used it and its successors the Draeger rebreather and Biomarine. Narrow spaces in mines are often too constricted for bulky open circuit sets with big compressed-air cylinders.
British Mines Rescue Stations
Colliery manager, W.E. Garforth suggested using a "gallery" to test rescue apparatus and train rescuers in 1899 and one was built at Altofts Colliery in West Yorkshire at a cost of £13,000. He also suggested the idea of a network of rescue stations. The first mines rescue station opened at Tankersley in 1902. The building is grade II listed. It was commissioned by the West Yorkshire Coal Mine Owners Association.
In the United Kingdom a series of disasters in the 19th century brought about Royal Commissions which developed the idea of improved mine safety. The commissions influenced the Coal Mines Act of 1911 which made the provision of rescue stations compulsory. By 1919 there were 43 stations in the UK but as the coal industry declined from the last quarter of the 20th century many were closed, leaving six as of 2013[update], at Crossgates in Fife, Houghton-le-Spring in Tyne and Wear, Kellingley at Beal in North Yorkshire, Rawdon in Derbyshire, Dinas at Tonypandy in Glamorgan and at Mansfield Woodhouse in Nottinghamshire. The Mines Rescue Station at Houghton-le-Spring opened in 1913 is one of the six surviving British rescue stations which are operated by Mines Rescue Service. It is a Grade II listed building.
First World War
During World War I the British army mined underneath enemy lines in occupied France, and mine rescue training was required for the soldiers, often skilled coal-miners who undertook the work as part of the Tunnelling companies of the Royal Engineers. Much documentation on military mining activities was classified information until 1961.
- 1907 Varischetti mine rescue in Western Australia
- 2006 Beaconsfield mine rescue in Tasmania
- 2010 San José Mine mine rescue in Copiapó, Chile
- Boothstown Mines Rescue Station
- Davies 2009, p. 134
- Preece 1981, p. 80
- Preece 1981, p. 81
- Minerescue, therebreathersite.nl/, retrieved 4 December 2013
- Davies 2009, p. 133
- Colorado School of Mines Student Mine Rescue, Colorado School of Mines, retrieved 4 December 2013
- Preece 1981, p. 82
- Rescue stations, Heroes of Mine, retrieved 4 December 2013
- English Heritage, "Tankersley Mine Rescue Station (1376008)", National Heritage List for England, retrieved 3 December 2013.
- Houghton Mines Rescue 100 Years and Still Serving the Community 1913–2013 by Mines Rescue Service Limited, Houghton le Spring, 2013 p8
- Then and now: The Mines Rescue Service, The BBC, retrieved 3 December 2013
- In pictures: Training with the Mines Rescue Service, The BBC, retrieved 3 December 2013
- Training Centres, Mines Rescue Service, retrieved 4 December 2013
- English Heritage, "Houghton Mines Rescue Station (1268411)", National Heritage List for England, retrieved 3 December 2013.
- Clifford, Philip, Mines rescue and the Great War, Heroes of Mine, retrieved 5 December 2013
- Celebrating 100 years of the Mines Rescue Service A Collection of Articles and Press Extracts by Brenda Graham, Mines Rescue Service,Houghton le Spring, 2013.
- Houghton Mines Rescue 100 Years and Still Serving the Community 1913–2013 by Mines Rescue Service Limited, Houghton le Spring, 2013.
- THE TRAINING OF OFFICERS AND MEN OF THE TUNNELLING COMPANIES OF THE ROYAL ENGINEERS IN MINE-RESCUE WORK ON ACTIVE SERVICE IN FRANCE, by G.F.F. Eagar published in the Transactions of the Institution of Mining Engineers Vol. LVIII- 1919-1920 by Strzelecki, Percy (ed.)
- http://www.healeyhero.co.uk about Philip Healey
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- http://www.usmra.com/teamaccidents.htm hazards of mines rescue
- http://www.usmra.com United States Mine Rescue Association
- http://www.labour.gov.sk.ca/safety/mine-rescue-manual Saskatchewan Mine Emergency Response Program.
- http://www.masha.on.ca/mine_rescue/ Ontario Mine Rescue
- Welsh Coal Mines website and histories plus disasters and mines rescue
- "School Trains Gas Fighters For Mine Rescues", February 1931, Popular Science 1931 article on the eras advance technology for mine rescue
- "The Most Difficult Rescue in Mining History." Popular Science, September 1957, pp. 124–127, story of one of the longest mining rescues till Chile.
- A review of current methods of fitness testing in the Mines Rescue Service and similar organisations by RG Love and RA Graveling Institute of Occupational Medicine Research Report TM/88/08
- Mines Rescue Service (active in Great Britain 2013)
- National Coal Mining Museum resource on Mine Rescue