They''ve battled mine fires, contained underground floods and rescued their colleagues trapped beneath layers of rock.
Mine rescue teams are highly trained specialists with skills that enable them to save lives and mine property. Today, these skills will be put to the test.
More than 30 teams representing Nevada and nine other states, Bosnia, Canada, Mexico, Peru, Poland and Ukraine will compete in the 2000 National and International Metal and Nonmetal Mine Rescue Competition in Las Vegas, Nev.
This only the second year in the all-day competition''s history to feature foreign teams. The contest is sponsored by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA).
"The men and women who serve on mine rescue teams truly are a rare breed of people," said Secretary of Labor Alexis M. Herman. "They practice over and over again -- often on their own time -- in preparation for a disaster they hope never occurs. When they compete in a rescue contest, they treat it like the real thing."
Mine rescue competitions are designed to test the knowledge of miners who might be called upon to respond to a real mine emergency.
The contest requires six-member 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.
MSHA is also hosting a series of technical sessions so national and international teams can exchange information on mine rescue training, equipment and technical support.
"The mining industry all around the globe faces safety and health challenges," said MSHA Administrator Davitt McAteer. "These challenges are more difficult in some parts of the world than in others. As all of us struggle to find ways to prevent mining disasters, MSHA welcomes this opportunity to share our technical expertise with other countries. The bottom line, of course, is that we all can learn from each other."
In Thursday''s phase of the competition, benchmen -- those individuals charged with maintaining 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. Judges assess teams on proper application of skills according to the fundamentals of first aid.
by Virginia Sutcliffe