Teams show off skills during Manitoba mine rescue competition

Two hours northeast of Winnipeg, 200 feet below ground and underneath Bernic Lake, mine rescue teams from across Manitoba competed in order to test their skills in realistic mine rescue scenarios over the weekend (May 24 and 25).

Four teams, one from each of the three active mining operations across the province and one comprising two members from each mine, collectively ran through a handful of simulations over two days, showing off skills related to inspecting and maintaining safety gear, applying first aid and conducting below-ground rescues.

Greg Bellin, a site shift supervisor at Tanco Mine, has been participating in these types of competitions for over a decade. Being able to put his training into action could help tip the scales in a real life-or-death situation when one actually happens.

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“Doing the competition, we actually test our skills,” Bellin said. “(We) make sure our training is effective and efficient in dealing with any mine emergencies and stuff like that around Manitoba.”

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As teams work through each scenario, they are being followed and observed by a handful of judges.

“They’re being judged on their technique, their skills, how they handle themselves, how they handle the patients, how they handle problems, and how they deal with little pitfalls they reach along the way,” said Craig Kulbaba, who designed this year’s underground rescue scenario.

An obstacle Kulbaba faces when it comes to creating the scenarios is anticipating all the different ways an obstacle can be addressed.

“The challenging part is to try and get in the contestants’ head, and try and figure out how they’re going to solve the problem,” Kulbaba said. “We have four teams coming down here, and you’ll probably see four different ways that they’re going to solve the problem.”

The competition ensures competitors are properly prepared for whatever real-life emergencies may occur, but Tanco Mine facilities general manager Matt Johnson believes it goes beyond that by fostering deeper relationships between the mine, its employees and the communities they operate in to foster a healthy and positive relationship between all partners involved.

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