Rescue teams from regional mines show preparedness at competition

By Allan Bradbury
Staff Writer

The Memorial Sports Complex was the site of the annual Thunder Bay District Mine Rescue Competition last week.

The competition held in Fort Frances was between mine rescue teams from New Gold Rainy River mine and the Impala Lac Des Iles palladium mine northwest of Thunder Bay. 

“Mine rescue is regulated through the [Ontario] Government, so all active underground mines have to have a mine rescue team in place,” said Rick Francoeur, safety training manager for New Gold Rainy River. 

“So through Mine Rescue Ontario, they set up these competitions at the district level to show the competency within the team.”

The mine has 25-35 members on its rescue team at any given time and it selects a six-person team along with a briefing officer, a technician, and a spare member.

The competition puts teams through scenarios designed by Ontario Mine Rescue.

“Each team goes through the exact same scenario, none of them know what the scenario is until they arrive,” Francoeur said. 

“From there, it’s a timed event and they have two and a half hours to get through.”

Teams are tested on several different competencies that are imperative to a safe mine rescue operation. These tests may include firefighting, first aid, specialty equipment use and supporting walls that have the potential to collapse.

Francoeur said even though New Gold hasn’t been underground at the mine very long, he’s pleased with the team’s performance.

“This is the third year we’ve competed and there were two years of COVID that we didn’t have any competition,” Francoeur said. 

“The first year, which was five years ago, was a real learning experience. Last year again, coming out of COVID, the team, again, it was new to them, and they did well. This year, a lot more preparation went into it. They now knew what they were coming into, so a lot of extra effort went in, a lot of studying … Everybody in Mine Rescue, they obviously have to dedicate a lot of time towards training, but the people in the competition team are probably putting in an extra 40 hours for sure, just on training.”

The team from New Gold Rainy River consisted of captain Justin Borger, Brad Robinson, Graham Cumming, Hanna Marcotte, vice-captain Jamie Carlson, Tyler Venerous, Ashley Johnston, briefing officer Luke Calder, technician Scott Asselin, and coach/trainer Jarid Sandelovich.