Since the 1950s, mining companies have brought their mine rescue teams to participate in a provincial competition, putting their skills to the test.
The 65th annual BC Provincial Mine Rescue Competition will be held in Williams Lake at the Stampede Grounds June 16 and 17 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. The two-day event showcases the skills of mine rescue teams from across the province and it is open to the public to watch.
B.C. has 17 sizeable operating mines and two operating smelters, with the province requiring all mines to have emergency response capabilities under the Health, Safety and Reclamation Code for Mines in British Columbia.
“I know all the teams are thrilled to be coming to Williams Lake,” said Michael Goering, president and CEO of the Mining Association of British Columbia. He said the event always brings a strong spirit of competition which in the end continues to add to safety within the industry.
Over two days, the highly-trained teams of six from operations around the province, including the local Gibraltar Mine and Mount Polley Mine, will be competing.
“The competition is just a great opportunity to test our teams and demonstrate their leadership,” said Cyndi van Alphen, emergency response coordinator for Gibraltar Mine and coach of the Gibraltar team. Van Alphen said she made it to the regionals twice when she was competing in Alberta.
She has been helping train the Gibraltar crew which is made up of seven rescuers which includes one alternate, selected after some of the 50 rescue members at the mine tried out.
“They’re a very strong team,” said the coach, giving the team members credit for their high level of commitment and focus.
“Everybody here’s looking forward to this competition,” she said. “They’re pretty proud and ready to go.”
The Mount Polley Mine team will also be in the competition.
“We’ve trained real hard,” said Murray Dyment, one of the team’s coaches. He said he has been involved in mine rescue since about 1998. From the coach’s perspective, he said one of the hardest parts can be communication and getting the team to work as a team so they can make the most of one another’s skills to solve any problem in front of them. Dyment was confident the event will be a good show and said it is all about making the workplace safer.
Rescue teams train for any and all kinds of emergencies which can arise at remote working locations, from avalanche rescue, cold weather incidents and hot weather incidents to fire fighting and vehicle extractions.
The competition helps showcase skills needed for both underground and surface mine rescue scenarios.
“If you’re watching them on that day then you’ll be very impressed,” said van Alphen of the high level of skills they’ll have on display.
Three-person first aid scenarios will also be included as part of the competition.
The Ministry of Mines will be coming to the community to set up the competition.
“The city of Williams Lake is pleased to be hosting the Provincial Mine Rescue Competition again this year, and we look forward to welcoming the competitors, their families and supporters, volunteers and dignitaries to Williams Lake,” said Surinderpal Rathor, mayor of Williams Lake.
“It’s wonderful to see this event going ahead this year after being put on hold by the pandemic. The mining sector is a strong contributor to Williams Lake’s economy, and this competition’s focus on safety and skills is an important event for the participants and spectators.”
Rathor said he hopes the community comes out in support and gives the visiting teams some “warm Cariboo hospitality.”
The winners of the competition are then invited to compete in the Western Region Mine Rescue Competition, which will be hosted in Fernie, B.C.
The event is co-hosted by the Mining Association of BC and the Ministry of Energy, Mines, and Low Carbon Innovation.