Coal mining competition trains miners to save lives

Coal mining competition trains miners to save lives
By: Arnold Wyrick
INA, Ill. - It takes a special breed of a person to rush into a burning coal mine, to save a fellow miner.  But, that's exactly what members of Illinois coal mine rescue teams do when disaster strikes.
And in order to keep themselves prepared they train above ground, before heading underground into a real mine emergency.
"They will encounter such things as low oxygen, concentrations of methane gas, fires and smoke.  They must document everything they see in the mine.  And it has to be placed on a mine map," says Mike Woods with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Mines & Minerals.
One by one each team from throughout Illinois' makes their way through the simulated mine shaft searching for survivors.  It's a friendly competition among fellow miners.  But, the moves they make during this training course could save a life.
"There's going to be a lot of mistakes made, this is a training exercise.  They will learn from these mistakes.  Because in a real life scenario in a coal mine you can not make those mistakes," Woods said.
That's why the teams must work together, racing against the clock and the unknown.  Knowledge that can only be gained from experience.
"It's very vital to just be prepared for the situation that you might encounter.  You've got to practice, you've got to train for it, to be able to do it the actual situation," says Dustin Patterson of the Gateway Mine Rescue Team.
When the competition wrapped up and all of the scores tabulated during the Robert Earl Jones Mine Rescue Competition at Rend Lake College, the team from Peabody Energy Big Ridge Inc. Willow Lake Mine walked away with top honors, for finishing the course with the least amount of mistakes, in the quickest time.