Monday, October 8, 2007

UA class will simulate miner rescue

UA class will simulate miner rescue
Tucson Citizen -
USAOctober 8, 2007

Mine accidents trapping workers in darkness far below the surface have become a news cycle staple.

The latest incident occurred last week when 3,200 South African gold miners were rescued from a mile underground.

"I believe it has raised awareness that the dangers are still there," Arizona State Mining Inspector Joe Hart said. "It's good to keep training. That's the only thing people can count on when they are stuck in a situation underground."

University of Arizona students will participate in a realistic mine rescue and recovery exercise Saturday. The exercise will simulate an accident that leaves a miner injured in the lower level of an underground mine. Students will prepare the "injured" miner for transportation and remove him from the depths of the mine.

The victim will be transported by the Helmet Peak Volunteer Fire Department to a nearby helicopter pad, where a LifeLine helicopter will land and carry the miner to a hospital.

Then inspectors from Hart's office will conduct a simulated accident investigation and question the students about their role in the rescue.

"This is related to something like the Crandall Canyon Mine disaster in Utah that killed six miners underground and lost three more rescuers," said Ros Hill, UA professor of mining and geological engineering.

The training exercise begins at 9 a.m. at UA's San Xavier Underground Mining Laboratory, 6200 W. Ocotillo Ranch Road, said Hill, who directs the facility.

The mine has levels 150, 100 and 50 feet below the surface, Hill said.

The 15 to 20 participating students will be from the mining and geological engineering department's Mine Health and Safety class, Hill said.

"Any time you can train in a facility like UA has, it will be a great experience for the students involved," Hart said. "This is a very unique situation. We would not be doing this unless he had a good mine like this in the university system."

While none of Arizona's 629 active mines is a major underground operation - at least until the proposed Resolution Copper Mine near Superior starts up - Hart said that the estimated 50,000 dangerous abandoned mine sites in the state mean training for underground rescues and extractions remains important.

"What we're trying to do is give our students the best tools they can get before they graduate to know what to expect in an accident and what kinds of things can help them get out," Hill said. "This is an exercise, but it can really happen, and you need to be prepared, and you need to think of how you are going to take care of your fellow miners in case of an emergency."