Leadership

THE HAZARDS OF RESCUES IN ABANDONED MINES

Issue 8 and Volume 156.

BY CHUCK CHRISTMAN Executing a rescue from an abandoned mine, be it a vertical shaft or portal entry mine, can be more hazardous than it would seem at first glance. The unique aspects of the underground environment and a lack of knowledge of the specialized rescue techniques put an untrained rescuer at great risk. Some of the dangers encountered in abandoned mines include toxic gases or low oxygen levels, rotten timbering or no ground support at all, unseen dry-rot in bulkheads, invisible vertical shafts to lower levels, poisonous insects or snakes, frightened animals, illegally discarded haz-mat waste, and old explosives. Generally, there are no maps to guide the rescuers, and the usual confined space rescue techniques, such as rappelling, become hazards in themselves. Conventional light sources (e.g., those that are not intrinsically safe) can cause blasts in explosive atmospheres that sometimes exist in abandoned mines, and the rescuers can find…

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