Mine rescuers converge on Craig for annual contest, bringing economic boost | CraigDailyPress.com

Mine rescuers converge on Craig for annual contest, bringing economic boost

Lauren Blair
Daily Press staff writer

Chances for underground mine rescuers to put their skills to use in real-world mine disasters are relatively rare, fortunately, but the annual Colorado Mine Rescue Association Mine Rescue Contest gives teams a chance to test their skills in friendly competition with each other.

The annual event took place in Craig this week, bringing about 150 miners and support staff from Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico together at Craig Middle School to demonstrate their expertise, including two teams from nearby Twentymile Mine.

"It's a good opportunity to sharpen our skills," said Rowdy Randall, mine rescuer from Bridger Mine out of Rock Springs, Wyoming. "It prepares us for the events that we never want to see."

Though the competition is friendly between the teams from eight underground coal mines, the purpose behind the contest couldn't be more serious.

Mine rescue is highly specialized, meaning rescuers must fill the roles a fire department, EMT and search and rescue crew would normally fill. It also means underground coal mines send their teams to help when disaster strikes at another mine.

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"What it's about for me personally is, first of all, the guys back home at the mine deserve to have a team that takes care of them," Randall said. "But when I look around here and see the wives and kids, I want to make sure they have the comfort of knowing their loved ones are taken care of."

Peter Saint, western administrator of mine rescue competitions for the Mine Safety and Health Administration, welcomes the families of mine rescuers to events.

"You have to devote a lot of your life to be on the mine rescue team, so you have to have the support for your family and your wife," Saint said. "The families come here and they see it, they're a part of it."

The event has been running nearly 30 years, rotating each year between Craig and Delta, filling both hotel rooms and restaurants and giving the local economy a boost.

Local organizers even enlisted the cheerleading team and the girls' middle school volleyball team to prep and serve breakfasts and lunches for the competitors.

"I try to give our money to the schools to support them," said Twentymile Mine Safety Specialist and Mine Rescue Trainer Mark Beauchamp.

And for the miners, the chance not only to learn and be challenged by the scenarios presented to them, but to build camaraderie across mines and state lines is invaluable.

Mine rescue is highly specialized, meaning rescuers must fill the roles a fire department, EMT and search and rescue crew would normally fill. It also means underground coal mines send their teams to help when disaster strikes at another mine.

"Even though they're competing here, they're supporting each other," Saint said. "Because in a disaster, we're still gonna be there to support each other."

Contact Lauren Blair at 970-875-1795 or lblair@CraigDailyPress.com or follow her on Twitter @LaurenBNews.