Vale Thompson crowned provincial mine rescue champions for second year – by Kacper Antoszewski (Thompson Citizen – June 1, 2016)

Vale Manitoba Operations and the Mining Association of Manitoba hosted the 2016 Manitoba Provincial Mine Rescue Competition in Thompson May 27- 28, pitting four mine rescue teams from across the province in practical, technical, and firefighting challenges to qualify for the privilege to compete at the national level. The four teams represented the Tanco Mine from Bernic Lake, Hudson Bay’s Lalor and Flin Flon operations, and Thompson’s own Vale.

Friday featured an underground portion, where mine rescue competitors were subjected to a mine rescue scenario, and resolve a first aid problem. Saturday morning, teams alternated between firefighting and technical competitions. The technical portion was a written exam administered to competitors as individuals. After, competitors had to troubleshoot and resolve a fault in a malfunctioning breathing apparatus.

Saturday afternoon, miners mixed and mingled for the practical skills portion of the event: crib building, the hose roll, the dummy drag, the passageway challenge and the Kaiser sled. While each competitor was scored individually, many challenges required teamwork among a mixed team of competitors. The events were judged and timed by a variety of mine rescue instructors from across the province.

The most dramatic event was the firefighting challenge, where rescuers negotiated three different fire scenarios: first was a gravity-fed fire, where burning fuel in a suspended bucket dripped onto a bucket and surrounding pool below. The second was a basic, open fuel fire suspended over top of water, while the last was a large barrel fire to be fought with two people.

Judged by representatives from Levitt Safety, scores were tallied on a demerit system: the more mistakes you made, the more demerits you received, with most mistakes costing a competitor one to two demerits. However, firefighters received only one canister each, and failure to extinguish a fire would cost a competitor a full 10 demerits.

Dave Green from Hudson Bay Flin Flon won this year’s technician challenge, while captain Greg Bellin from Tanco claimed the top in the practical skills portion. This year was the first year that the fire component would merit its own award, which was reserved for Hudson Bay’s Snow Lake team. But the overall 2016 provincial championship was claimed by Thompson’s own Vale miners for the second year in a row, qualifying yet another team for the National Western Region Mine Rescue Competition to be hosted in Fernie for 2017.