Coming together to save lives

THE Cornwall Coal Mine Rescue Team has won the Prospect Awards Excellence in Mine OH&S Award. Daniel Hall writes

Commitment to staffing and equipping mine rescue teams is not a one-off, low-cost investment.

Mines rescue exercises can be expensive, with the benefits sometimes being realised at competitors’ mines.

Cornwall Coal has committed to support occupational health and safety in Tasmania, at the cost of the company.

The Cornwall Coal Mines Rescue Team is an integral part of Cement Australia’s emergency preparedness management system.

In August 1996 a survey was conducted to identify the provision, organisation, operation and funding of mines rescue throughout Australia, so that other sectors of the mining industry were able to provide a resource pool for mines rescue across the country.

The Cornwall Coal Company Mines Rescue Team was established in 1981, following a fatal methane explosion at the Duncan Colliery.

The team was established with assistance from the Newcastle Mines Rescue Station, and now uses the Southern Mines Rescue Station (Mines Rescue Services, NSW) for training purposes.

The rescue team is fully funded by Cornwall Coal mines and continues to provide rescue services to Cement Australia and across the country, when required.


The team most recently played an integral role in the rescue of the two miners at the Beaconsfield gold mine cave-in.

On 25 April 2006 a minor earthquake hit the Beaconsfield gold mine in Tasmania, causing a rock fall that trapped three men.

Upon discovery that two of the trapped men were still alive, the rescue team was called upon to assist the Beaconsfield and West Coast mine rescue teams with a major underground rescue.

The team worked 12-hour shifts for seven days of the Beaconsfield gold mine rescue, under instruction from the incident management team.

They were required to remove debris from the cave-in and shore-up support structures for the roof of the mine, among many other tasks requested by the incident management team, to gain safe access to the trapped miners.

Fourteen days after the incident the two men were rescued.

The Cornwall Coal Mines Rescue Team took great pride in the professional way they contributed to the rescue of the miners.

In many cases of mine emergencies where injury to personnel is minor, business continuity losses can be significant due to the extent of damage, the nature of control measures employed, and the loss of mine production.

Investigative processes also cost the company a great deal of money.

Failure to have effective control measures in place to manage an incident can compound overall losses for mining companies.

Development and implementation of an effective emergency preparedness system has required management leadership, commitment and support, according to Cement Australia.

The potential short-term impact on operational performance arising from conflicting and competing priorities, or an over-commitment or under-funding of operational resources, can work against the effectiveness of the emergency management system.

The team participates in monthly mines rescue training to ensure skills are up-to-date.

Training involves rescue from height and depth, fire-fighting, hazardous chemical response, first aid, vehicle extrication, confined space rescue and the use, care, and maintenance of equipment such as breathing apparatus and hydraulic cutting tools.

Annual events such as the Australian Mines Rescue Competition and the Tasmanian Mines Rescue Competition are designed to provide rescue teams with an opportunity to showcase their skills and share ideas with counterparts from other operations.

The teams carry out simulated rescue activities including fire-fighting, vertical rescue, road accident rescue, endurance and confined space search and rescue, and time-critical injury rescue.

These competitions are designed to ensure mine rescue teams continue to be the best at what they do.

Highly commended

As a diversified company operating throughout Australia and New Zealand, and in a wide number of jurisdictions, Leighton Mining has traditionally devolved operational responsibility for safety management to its various business units, disciplines and projects.

While this model achieved significant results in safety, health and environment, it did not readily encourage knowledge sharing or the sharing of expertise.

Over the past two years, the company has taken a coordinated approach to safety and health across its operations, creating a common reporting and governance platform.

This coordinated approach has been highly commended by the Prospect Awards judging panel.

Leighton Mining now employs a consistent database, Sitesafe, specifically designed to capture all incidents on-site, allowing the contractor to monitor important safety and environmental data.

It also has a built-in training component.

All incidents are reported to mine management, where they are analysed to see what lessons can be learned to prevent similar occurrences in the future.

All incidents are forwarded to Leighton Mining’s management in Brisbane so the company can keep a detailed log of safety incidents.

Leighton Mining introduced an electronic reporting system during 2007 that circulates incident reports throughout the company.

Leighton Mining has reached safety milestones across eight sites in the region, including 1200 days at Peak Downs without a lost-time injury (LTI), 1000 days at Moorvale Mine without LTI, more than 750 days at Saraji Mine without an LTI, and 700 days at Duralie Mine without an LTI.

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