Nine teams from across the Hunter Valley and one Queensland team were put under pressure at this year's annual open cut mines rescue competition, which was held at Bengalla Mine on Friday, September 13.
Teams worked their way through a complex series of simulated emergencies including fire fighting, light and heavy vehicle collisions, vertical rescues, high voltage rescue, general and industrial first aid, heavy lifting and application of knowledge via a theory test.
The competition format was designed to be as realistic as possible, with each team having their core competencies and capabilities scrutinised at every turn.
This included how they preserved life, treated the casualties, stabilised the scenes and applied their emergency management skills under duress, as well as how well the team worked together.
Teams put in significant training in the lead up to the fiercely contested event, with Peabody's Wambo team named the best team on the day, closely followed by Thiess Glencore's Mt Owen Team.
Winning Wambo captain, Mick Turner was both thrilled and very humbled when asked to comment on the result.
"It was both surprising and fantastic. We went into the event with a very positive mindset and saw the competition, regardless of the outcome, as an opportunity to learn, test and improve our skills," Mick said.
"I was very proud of the efforts of the team.and couldn't have asked for anymore, they should be commended for their commitment to the task at hand on the day, and their preparation and training into the lead up of the competition.
"We had two relatively inexperienced team members, so this win is a real reflection on the efforts of the team as a whole, and everyone's contributions.
"The scenarios were very challenging, and competing at an actual mine made it all the more realistic. The skills learned on the day will only strengthen our team's capabilities, and I am sure, every other team."
The win was a very proud personal moment for Mick. His father has had a long history in mines rescue throughout his career. Mick remembers fondly his stories about competing in mines rescue competition in Queensland and those that he won, including at State level.
"Dad was the first person I rang when we won, he has been my inspiration for a long time, and from a young age my father instilled the importance of mines rescue in me," Mick said.
"He would share stories about the scenarios he was involved in and how valuable the skills were. Skills that help you make a difference at work with your workmates in such close knit teams, but just as importantly at home with your family and in your community. We learn valuable skills that can help save lives, and make all of the difference when situations turn dire."
After finishing his apprenticeship and completing his trade, Mick took the first opportunity to join mines rescue, and hasn't looked back. "I have loved it ever since. The skills and knowledge I have learned have been invaluable, and I hope to continue to be involved for many more years to come," he said.
This is the second win for Peabody's Wambo this year, which is an exceptional feat by all accounts.
"Wambo is extremely proud of every one of our talented employees, and when they are formally recognised for their skills, it makes our day a little brighter," said Acting General Manager Wambo, Micheal Alexander.
"Despite the industry making significant technological advances to enhance mine safety, we will always require the human element in an emergency. We hope to never see a significant incident at our mine, but the Wambo Open Cut Emergency Response Team have demonstrated they have the winning formula should we need to call on them.
"I congratulate the team led by Mick Turner and am happy to see them build on the success of our Wambo Underground Mines Rescue team. It's a testament to the strong safety culture and commitment to looking after your mates that extends across all mining operations at our Wambo complex."
When asked about the importance of events like this one, David Connell, Hunter Valley Mines Rescue Regional Manager echoed the comments of the Wambo captain, and their Acting General Manager. "It's a testament to today's mining operations and the skills of emergency response teams across NSW that the number of major incidents are limited," he said.
"That doesn't mean we should ever be complacent. Our competitions help audit, hone and refine capabilities. Having trained and equipped emergency personnel ready and able to respond to our open cut industry is critical.
"While we obviously hope that we never need to use them, having these skills available at each mine site should give peace of mind to our industry, workers and their families in the event of any emergency," he added.
"The specialised skills of the men and women who competed at the event also transcends their workplaces. They provide not only day to day safety leadership at site, but their training and associated benefits extend deep into our communities, with team members also fulfilling roles as fire fighters, medical leaders at sports clubs, and the like."