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Disaster spurs Grosvenor team to mines rescue excellence

November 7, 2023

Eight of the best mines rescue teams in the Australian coal industry faced off in October in a backbreaking day of challenges to determine this year’s national champion.

The team representing Grosvenor Mine took first place in the Australian Underground Coal Mines Rescue competition. Moranbah North took second place in the event, followed by the South Western District’s Dendrobium Mine in third.

This year’s competition was hosted by the Queensland Mines Rescue Service at the Moranbah North Mine. The competition, which is in its 59th year, pits mines rescue teams in a series of challenges designed to test underground search and rescue, firefighting, and first aid. The competition mimics real-life scenarios that may be encountered in an emergency situation. It assesses teamwork, knowledge, and the use of rescue equipment in a high pressure and time constrained environment.

For the Grosvenor team, the winners of this year’s competition, these exercises are tragically not theoretical. In 2020, Grosvenor suffered one of the most significant mine disasters in recent history after an underground methane explosion severely burned five workers at the longwall.

Jimmy Green, a member of the Grosvenor team with a decade of mines rescue experience, says the 2020 disaster was a significant motivator for the team. Having been based at Grosvenor when the disaster occurred, Jimmy saw major changes to the attention and investment paid to the site’s rescue service. They saw a renewed focus and allocation of resources towards first aid and emergency response, as well as an influx of new volunteers.

“It was extremely promising, it’s just unfortunate it took a disaster for it to happen,” Jimmy said.

While the teams aim to come away with first, the main purpose of these competitions is to build the camaraderie and cooperation between mines rescue services across Australia. Teams have the opportunity to pool their knowledge and experience with counterparts from all around the country, observe and learn from one another in action, and work together in further developing best practices in emergency scenarios. The result is a better rescue service for all coal mineworkers, regardless of who wins on the day.

The competition’s emphasis on team cohesion was highlighted as particularly valuable to Jimmy, who commended his team’s cool heads and professionalism. The physical fitness aspect of competing was also noted, as it ensures members continue to meet the high standards of the service, even as they age out of team sports and other physical activities.

The most important factor of these competitions to Jimmy, however, is the focus on first aid and lifesaving techniques. This is understandable, given his experience in the 2020 disaster, but he made sure to also emphasise the value of these skills off-site, outside of mining related emergencies:

“You never know when you might need this knowledge or skills, particularly living in remote or regional areas.”

The Grosvenor team is set to represent Australia at the international stage of the competition in Colombia next year, alongside the runners up from their sister-mine Moranbah North.

For any mineworkers who wish to get involved with Mines Rescue, Jimmy’s message is simple:

“Don’t wait for the next disaster to put your hand up, by then it will already be too late.”

Congratulations to all the participants of this year’s competition. You have our gratitude for contributing to the safety of all coal mineworkers.

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