Rescue and Emergency Support Services in Underground Coal Mines
AUTHOR: B Jones, D Brenkley, R A Burrell, S C Bennett
DATE: January 1999
Underground coal mining production, which is expected to continue to grow globally, will always involve major hazards, principally falls of ground, fires and explosions. A number of incidents have occurred worldwide which have led to major reappraisals of safety performance and practice. There is an increasing adoption of mine emergency preparedness measures as a central component of mine operational management practice. This approach reflects a recognition that improvements in mine safety management and emergency response must involve all parties and that the early detection of an incident and an appropriate response are critical. In particular, suitable measures must be in place for effective self- rescue, most notably in terms of life support for use in irrespirable atmospheres, together with the highest standards of training concerning its use. An effective response to major incidents requires a comprehensive risk assessment and an emergency plan which has been thoroughly tested. There is then a requirement that rescue teams are organised, trained and supported in a manner which allows the rescue to be accomplished with maximum likelihood to success and minimum risk to those involved in the rescue.
This report provides an extensive review of the current scientific, technical and organisational knowledge appropriate to mine emergency and rescue response. The report examines and contrasts organisation of Mines Rescue at national level and identifies trends in organisational models. Subsequent sections of the report examine the issues relating to self-escape, life support in irrespirable atmospheres, and systems to ensure that effective communications, location of personnel and environmental monitoring are available after an incident. It is identified outstanding research requirements and examines barriers to the supply of equipment and successful transfer of best practice. One observation is that the resources for research and development have declined in a number of coal mining industries and that technological stagnation is a possible consequence. However, there is evidence to suggest that international collaboration is increasing and that best practice is shared at least informally, between mines rescue organisations.