Scottish Mines Rescue team praises heroic efforts in Chile


By Amanda MacMillan

A SCOTS based underground recovery team yesterday (thurs) lavished praise on the Camp Hope emergency teams in Chile – and vowed Britain’s own experts could rise to the same kind of challenge if ever needed.

Mines Rescue, based at Crossgates in Fife, are on constant stand-by for just such an emergency while offering expert solutions and preventions through mainly health and safety training.

But Brian West, 50, a rescue officer with Mines Rescue, said that Britain has all the necessary equipment to cope with such a drama if ever confronted with the same kind of trauma of the San Jose 33.

He said: “It was a fantastic job in Chile. Very well done and very well managed from start to finish.”

“We have never had anything in the UK the scale of Chile and never been involved in a rescue to the extent of mining a borehole.

“But if there was a problem in a UK coal mine then we do have that type of equipment.

“In Chile it was more a massive drilling operation.

“If we had the same situation in the UK we would also need to bring in expertise from other companies.”

In Chile all 33 miners who were trapped have now been hauled to the surface in a rescue operation which lasted 24 just over hours.

A Fenix 2 rescue capsule, designed by the Chilean Navy, helped take the men to safety.

Mr West, who has been with the Mines Rescue service for 25 years, was a coal miner himself and insists that the UK’s safety standards are second to none.

He said: “When I was a coal miner I was never scared that I was going to be trapped.

“Britain has got the best health and safety standards anywhere in the world.”

There are six Mines Rescue bases in the UK with the headquarters in Nottingham.

But as there are no coal mines left in Scotland the team based at Crossgates engage in mostly health and safety training.

They train people in first aid and also how to deal with confined spaces.

But the team are also ready for any eventuality.

Mr West said: “We could be sent anywhere in the UK to help in a rescue operation and Mines Rescue has even done work abroad in the past including in Ireland and Egypt. “

“It would be up to the headquarters in Nottingham if we were to help in a rescue operation abroad.”

One of the biggest operations that the rescue worker has been involved in was at Longannet in Kincardine when there was a massive underground flood in 2002.

He said: “A lot of water broke in and they had to evacuate the mine.

“We got called in as well as the emergency services as a couple of guys were missing.

“One managed to find his own way out but we helped rescue the other one.”