Our operations employ experts and specialised equipment to provide rescue and safety services at our mines. Our teams also assist local emergency and rescue teams. To be a member of an OceanaGold Mines and Rescue Emergency Response Team, each team member is required to maintain their skills and physical fitness.
OceanaGold’s highly skilled Mines Rescue and Emergency Response Teams manage all emergency response equipment and implement the operational Emergency Response Program at each of our operations.
The teams are trained and certified in all areas of incident response including fire, underground search and rescue, vertical rope rescue, vehicle extraction, pre-hospital emergency care, hazardous material response and medical and accident response. They facilitate emergency response training onsite, and within host and adjacent communities as required or requested.
As part of our Waihi Operation’s commitment to the community, we have established strong relationships with local emergency services to assist with community events such as rope rescues, assisting at traffic accidents, and providing additional help to the local Coast Guard.
“Regular exercises and liaison with these groups has broadened the team’s experience and also allowed the community emergency response units to be aware of the equipment and skills the Mines Rescue Team has to offer,” said Waihi Operation Emergency Response Coordinator Jed Moriarty.
To ensure team members maintain strong physical fitness to assist in these events, each year they are required to complete a Physical Competency Test (PCT). At our Waihi Operation, this involves completing a series of tasks within a one-hour period while wearing an open circuit breathing apparatus. The course, which must be completed twice by each team member within one hour, includes weight-bearing exercises involving up walking up steep inclines, over sets of stairs, filling a drum with wet sand and crawling through confined tunnels. Our Macraes Operation team members undergo a similar program called a ‘Functional Capacity Test’.
“The goal is to record a low heart rate at the completion of the course, and after a 10-minutes rest, bring their heart rate down to as close to their resting heart rate as possible,” Jed said.
Each year our Mines Rescue Teams from Waihi and Macraes participate in the Leukaemia Foundation’s Sky Tower Stair Challenge to raise funds for Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand.
This event sees firefighters and emergency rescue teams from throughout New Zealand gather in Auckland in full rescue equipment and take on the Sky Tower Stair Challenge – 328 metres, 1103 steps, 51 flights of stairs to the top of the Sky Tower. In 2021 the teams raised over NZ$41,000 to support Leukaemia and Blood Cancer New Zealand.
The participants are the first to admit the climb is not for the faint hearted but point out they already have a good level of fitness to build on. They say the real challenge is fundraising, but they have been generously supported by the company, businesses and individuals in the past.
Macraes Emergency Response Coordinator Steve Renton said: “Nothing can really prepare you for what you are going to encounter on the day, and having done it about six times now, it’s just a case of start at the bottom and keep on going till you get to the top.”
At our Haile Operation, the focus for our Underground Rescue Team has been preparing for underground mining and the emergency response challenges this presents, with equipment being purchased and a new training regime being implemented.
Trainer Rusty Duncan said there were strict regulations in place for both equipment and training. “You need 20 hours of BG4 training, 50 hours of medical training, 50 hours of HAZMAT and 50 hours of confined space training and then there’s rope rescue training on top of that,” he said.
To assist with this, the team used three shipping containers and large tubing to build an underground environment that closely simulated an underground emergency situation.
Rusty said the team’s goal had always been to do as much training in house as possible.
“I want other Mine Rescue teams to look at us and see our training facility and think it’s something they would want to come to,” he said.
As the largest gold mining operation on the east coast of the United States, Haile’s Underground Rescue Team will be the only gold mining rescue team in the area.
Trainer Genalee Jones, who joined the Haile team with prior underground experience, says the team is more than up for the challenge.
“I’ve seen a lot of mine rescue teams. And I’ve seen a lot of competition teams. From day one, this is the best group I’ve seen. We’re not a bunch of co-workers. We’re family.”
Brand new challenges await, but the group is eager to keep going and proud to look back at how far the journey has taken them.
“I’m really looking forward to this. We’re in this together and we’re going to support each other just like families do,” Genalee said.