Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Mine Safety Officials Demonstrate New Equipment to Help in Rescues

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Mine Safety Officials Demonstrate New Equipment to Help in Rescues

Article excerpt

Two rescue teams overcame a fire, roof collapses and noxious gases while working to save nine miners Wednesday at Consol Energy's Harvey Mine in West Finely.

This, of course, was just part of an emergency simulation, but it marked a giant leap in mine rescue technology as they tested new equipment allowing subterranean teams to communicate directly with an above-ground command center.

From the mine, volunteer rescue workers from Consol and the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration transmitted information through two-way radios directly to the command center, where five Consol officials and a state Special Medical Response Team doctor sent back directives.

Outside in an engineering trailer, which can double as a mobile command center, three men mapped the teams' tracks in real time on smart boards, which also showed the presence and levels of various gases detected by wireless underground monitors.

"The old method of relaying the results of exploration through multiple persons - almost like a 'Pony Express' system that often led to miscommunication - is over," said Joseph Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health.

As of Wednesday, the new technology is available for use in Pittsburgh.

"It's like going from no cell phone at all to an iPhone 6," said John Urosek, federal chief of mine emergency operations.

Mr. Main said he hopes by the end of the year the system also will be in Beckley, W.Va.; Denver; Madisonville, Ky.; and Price, Utah.

Alpha Natural Resources affiliates have partnered with the federal mine administration to test the technology at two West Virginia mines with rolling coal seams, spokesman Steve Hawkins said.

"We'll be interested to see how the technology develops and to further test it in mine rescue training," he said.

Cameras like those used during the Harvey Mine drill also may be utilized in time to feed live images from the mine, as well as updated seismic devices and better robotics, such as drones, Mr. …

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