HARRISBURG, Ill. (June 14, 2018) Twelve area mine safety and rescue teams battled it out in competition during the seventh annual Mine Safety and Rescue Skills Competition at Southeastern Illinois College in partnership with Illinois Eastern Community Colleges (IECC) June 12 and 13.
On the first day of competition, Hamilton County Coal in Dahlgren, trained by Jay Kittinger took first place with a team comprised of Harvey Niehaus, Luke Johnson, Dustin Barnett, Ricky Naas, Seth Tate, Andy Ditch, Mike Fravlini, Kory Naas, Davy Norman and Ronnie Pullum.
Prairie State Lively Grove Mine in Marissa, trained by Mark Baue, took second place on day one of competition. Team members include Marcus Tso, Mike Alms, Loretta Fondaw, Dan Wiedwilt, Raul Guillermo, Dan Meier, Travis Shaeffer, Jacob Montgomery and Paul Dunk.
Day two of competition saw the Foresight Energy LLC Blue – MaRyan Mining of Dorchester, Illinois, trained by Wesley Campbell in first place. Team members include Matt Szabo, Paul Perrine, Jim Beechler, Andrew Mason, Justin Adams and Ryan Farmer.
Sunrise Coal LLC of Oaktown, Indiana, trained by Terry Phegley took second place on day two of the competition with team members Cory Baker, Nick Foley, Robert King, Cody Burke, Nick O’Connor, Keith Messel, Mike Rinck, Steve Earle, Tory Hinton, Josh White and Ethan Resler.
The grand championship trophy for the two-day event went to the Foresight Energy LLC Blue – MaRyan Mining team for the second year in a row. 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.
The competition consists of six rounds of exercises that include fire training in the burn tunnel, smoke training and mapping in the smoke cans, field rescue in the simulated mine training facility, hose management, gas testing, first aid, and written testing.
Mike Thomas, Dean of Workforce Education at IECC, spoke about the competition.
“We’ve got a mine site that simulates actual mine conditions. They come in, they set up a problem and it’s up to the teams coming in to address the problems as they approach it. They are rated and timed according to how good they do, and at the end of the day, the best team wins,” said Thomas.
Mine safety teams competing this year included Foresight Energy from Viking-Mach Mine in Marion, Illinois; two teams from Foresight Energy MaRyan Mine in Dorchester, Illinois; Hamilton County Coal Mine in Dahlgren, Illinois; Gateway North Mine in Coulterville, Illinois; Prairie State Lively Grove Mine in Marissa, Illinois; Knight Hawk Coal in Percy, Illinois; Sunrise Coal in Oaktown, Indiana; Foresight Energy from Viking Mach Mine in Marion, Illinois; Indiana Bureau of Mines in Vincennes, Indiana; Peabody Francisco Mine in Owensville, Indiana; and Peabody Wildcat Mine in Equality, Illinois.
Although it is set up as a competition, the event provides training for very serious emergency situations that could happen during work in a coal mine. The simulated situations during the competition serve as practice for rescue teams in the event of an actual mine emergency.
According to Thomas, each team must attend two trainings/ competitions per year, according to federal regulations, although many do so more often. He says it’s not possible for a team to be overprepared for an actual emergency situation. And in an emergency situations, teams may be called out from a number of different mines to work together on a rescue.
Ben Ross, Workforce Education Special Projects Coordinator for SIC and coordinator of this event, said, “Giving these guys a chance to see how they do under pressure and learning to move fast and stay calm during sweltering conditions gives them an idea of how they would feel and react during a true mine emergency. They have to know what it feels like to carry all that heavy equipment and make sure it’s all working properly, as well as that they are communicating effectively during the event. This is not an easy competition.”
Ross then added, “I spent 20 years in the military coordinating major missions halfway around the world. Everyone came together and executed this event just as well if not better than anything I’ve seen. It really is put together like no other. It was an awesome event.”
The hope is that the miners never have to use the skills learned at competitions such as this one in a real life situation, but if a situation arises, they will be prepared.
SIC and IECC provide year-round training for the coal mining industry, as well as fire brigade training. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. For fire brigade and other fire-related training contact Ben Ross at 618-252-5400, ext. 2248 or email@example.com