Members of the Emery-Blue mine rescue team are not in order: Josh Christman, John Justesen, Josh Johnson, Dylan Larsen, Bret Tennant, Brett Cox and Richard Borg.
Members of the Emery-Black mine rescue team are not in order: Ron Wright, Brandon Wilde, Matt Crosland, Johnny Donan, Corey Prettyman, Kasey Thompson and Jim Kulow, trainer.
CONSOL Energy Inc.'s Emery Mine-Black team, from Emery, claimed first place honors in the CONSOL Energy "Best of the Best" Mine Rescue Contest held Sept. 16-18 in Virginia, capping the 2008 contest season. The Emery-Blue team claimed third place overall in the Virginia contest.
A total of 18 teams from throughout CONSOL Energy and its subsidiaries from five states, including those based in Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Utah, competed in the event held at the CONSOL Energy Mine Rescue Training Center at Oakwood, Va. CONSOL Energy has more mine rescue teams than any other company in the industry.
Competition was held in two divisions defined by team experience and saw the Emery-Black Mine Rescue team from Emery, claim first place honors in Division I; followed by Coal River Energy-Red, of Alum Creek, WV, second; and Emery-Blue, from Emery, third place overall. The AMVEST WV-Gold team finished fourth overall. Also competing in Division I were the AMVEST WV-Blue team and the Coal River Energy-Blue team from Naugatuk, WV.
Teams are judged in the competition by Mine Safety and Health Administration and Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy personnel, who watch the teams and judge the team's execution in solving the particular mine rescue problem presented. The competition takes into account not only how quickly a team successfully solves the problem, but also the manner in which the problem is solved. Discounts, or docks, are given to teams for mistakes made.
"The competitions are a great learning tool," said CONSOL Energy Mine Rescue Teams Coordinator Bill Tolliver. "Contest officials meet with the teams after their competition rounds to explain to them where mistakes were made and how they could have improved on their performance."
Teams arrived at the Oakwood training center at 7 a.m. on contest day and were escorted to an area where they awaited the start of their competition round. The order in which teams competed was selected in a random process the night before at a dinner held for all the teams.
CONSOL Energy Coal Group President Peter B. Lilly was in attendance at the dinner for the teams. He commended teams for their dedication to mine rescue and the extra time they put into being members of the mine rescue teams on which they serve.
"It's an exciting time as I look out and see all the new faces," Lilly said of the many new miners who have volunteered to serve on CONSOL mine rescue teams. "Mine rescue leads the way and we are fortunate to be down here for an event like this. It's an opportunity to celebrate the wonderful things that you do and the example you set for the people in our company."
Lilly noted it is an exciting time to be in the coal industry and he stressed the importance of working safely.
CONSOL Energy Chief Operating Officer Bart Hyita echoed comments made by Lilly. "For all your efforts, all your sacrifice to serve on a CONSOL rescue team and to participate in mine rescue, thank you," Hyita said. "It takes time away from your families and the whole industry appreciates your service. You are the most highly trained people we have in the company."
As the competition started the next day, Division I teams entered two fields set up with a procedural ventilation problem to solve and worked the problem in an average time of 34 minutes, four seconds.
Division II teams had to solve a problem involving multiple ventilation issues and with a twist, a roof fall which trapped the captain of the team, making it necessary for the rest of the team to pick up and solve the problem and rescue their captain. The average working time for Division II teams was 39 minutes, 37 seconds.
"We added that twist in because it emphasized to the teams what we've been telling them all along about the importance of cross training team members," Tolliver said. "The teams who had trained another captain were ready for it; the others had to make more significant adjustments."
Tolliver noted it had probably been 20 years since mine rescue teams had seen a "trapped captain" problem in competition.
"CONSOL really appreciates the extra time these team members put into mine rescue," Tolliver said. "They study for it, they practice for it and throughout the spring and summer, they put their knowledge to the test with other mine rescue teams across the country. All of that helps to keep their skills sharp and to make them better prepared in the event of a real situation.
"Having all our CONSOL Energy teams competing under one roof was a really special event for us," Tolliver added. "We hope to be able to work a 'Best of the Best' competition into our regular season for the future."
In addition to the contest at Oakwood, CONSOL Energy mine rescue teams competed in seven contests held in Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky and Pennsylvania throughout the competition season.