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DOL/MSHA News Release
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Contact: Rodney Brown
Phone: (202) 693-9425

Released Monday, September 15, 2003

National Contest Puts Mine Rescuers Through Their Paces
Miner Safety is Contest Goal

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - A fire has erupted and is burning uncontrollably at an underground coal mine. Dozens of miners have been safely evacuated, but the fate of the few who remain unaccounted for is unknown. A disaster in the making? Not quite. It's a simulated mine emergency exercise, and more than 40 mine rescue teams will test their skills to battle a similar scenario at the 2003 National Mine Rescue, First Aid, Bench and Preshift Contest, Sept. 15-19, 2003 at the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center.

"These exercises are as close as you get to the real thing, and the teams that compete treat them as such," said Dave D. Lauriski, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "The men and women who volunteer as members of our nation's mine rescue teams exemplify some of the best qualities you would seek in a miner, and in a human being - hard work, self-sacrifice, humility, bravery and team spirit. They practice for many hours - often on their own time - to ensure that if a real mine emergency occurs, trapped and injured miners have the absolute best chances of being rescued."

Mine rescue competitions require teams to solve a hypothetical mine emergency problem - such as a fire, explosion or cave-in - while judges rate them on their adherence to mine rescue procedures and how quickly they complete specific tasks. For the first time, there will be a preshift competition, in which an individual miner must examine the mine layout area prior to his shift, identify existing hazards, and take the appropriate actions to eliminate these hazards.

In other phases of the competition, benchmen - those who maintain rescue equipment -must thoroughly inspect breathing devices that have been purposely tampered with and must correct those defects as quickly as possible. In the first aid contest, participants must demonstrate the correct method of caring for an injured miner.

Mine rescue training began in the United States in 1910, the year the U.S. Bureau of Mines was created. Joseph A. Holmes, the bureau's first director, sought a training vehicle that would provide the mining industry with a cadre of mine rescue specialists who would be prepared to respond to mine disasters. The training efforts evolved into local and regional competitions and, a year later, a national contest.

Complete contest rules, schedule, results and photos can be found at MSHA's web site at