Miners in Missouri watched anxiously as the rescue effort to free 33 miners trapped in Chile concluded. All 33 miners have been brought to safety in an heroic rescue effort that came off flawlessly and captivated the world.
The Missouri Mine Rescue Association and the Missouri University of Science and Technology recently completed its 28th-Annual Mine Rescue Contest in Rolla, won for the 5th consecutive year by a team from the Doe Run Company of St. Louis.
Doe Run Safety Specialist Dan King says such training prepares the company to respond to emergencies such as when a truck fire trapped miners in one of Doe Run’s six underground mines in January. The engine of a 40-ton truck hauling lead out of the mine caught fire. The driver panicked and abandoned the truck. The fire grew and miners became trapped.
“The miners that were behind him went to a designated point of safety, closed it up, sealed it up with fresh air and waited for the mine rescue team to go in,” King tells the Missourinet.
The miners escaped unharmed.
Lafarge North America in Sugar Creek, Mississippi Lime and the Missouri Department of Labor join Doe Run as members of the Missouri Mine Rescue Association. The contest it sponsors in Rolla is the nation’s longest-running underground mining competition. Thirteen teams from Missouri, Colorado, Nevada, Illinois, New Mexico and Pennsylvania competed. A team from Doe Run won for the fifth consecutive year, a first in the competition’s history. King says training helps, but competition keeps the rescue crews sharp. Governor Nixon declared the third week in September, when the contest was held, as the state’s first Mine and Cave Safety Week.
Mining remains big business in Missouri. It generates approximately $8 billion for Missouri’s economy each year. Doe Run primarily operates lead and zinc mines, with a little bit of copper. Missouri leads the nation in production of lime. Other major products mined in Missouri are barite, cement, clay, fire clay, iron, sand and gravel, crushed stone, and silver. There are a total of 318 mines in Missouri, according to the State Department of Labor.
The underground mines operated by Doe Run in southeast Missouri range in depth from 600 feet to 1,250 feet. The Chilean mine is much deeper; 2,000 feet, nearly half a mile below surface. The copper and gold mine collapsed on August 5th. It trapped 33 miners. The plan to rescue them one-by-one in a specially designed 28-inch capsule worked without a hitch, quicker than expected.
While the mine in Chile collapsed, King worries less about a collapse than about loose rock that could imperil his miners as well as the movement of large equipment in dark, enclosed conditions.