UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State will host the 2019 Eastern SME (Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration) Spring Collegiate Mine Rescue Contest from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 30, at the Penn State Snider Agricultural Arena. Seven competitive mine rescue teams — including Penn State’s Mount Nittany Mine Rescue Team — are expected to compete in this year's event.
“This is the first time that Penn State will host the contest,” said Jeffery Kohler, professor and chair of the mining engineering program in Penn State’s John and Willie Leone Family Department of Energy and Mineral Engineering. “It will be an honor to host teams from the University of Kentucky, Virginia Tech, and West Virginia University, as well as the professionals from the mining companies and federal and state agencies who will serve as contest administrators and judges.”
Mine rescue contests are intended to perfect the skills and test the knowledge of team members who may need to respond to a mine emergency.
“Mine emergencies, such as explosions or fires, are exceedingly rare in the nation’s more than 600 active underground mines” Kohler said. “However, when they do occur, self-escape can be quite challenging. In these instances, specially trained mine rescue teams are called upon to enter the mine and attempt a rescue of any trapped miners. The mine openings may contain toxic gases, visibility may be near zero, passageways may have collapsed, and the mine’s infrastructure may have been compromised.”
The Mine Safety and Health Administration requires that all underground mines have rescue teams. These teams are required to practice on a regular basis and to demonstrate their mastery of the required competencies. Through collegiate mine rescue contests, students are able to develop and practice the skills necessary to respond to a mine rescue emergency when they go into the workforce.
Penn State’s team was originally founded in 2010 by two 1983 mining engineering graduates, Edward Zeglen Jr. and Susan Bealko. Zeglen, chief mine engineer, and Bealko, corporate safety director, both at GMS Mine Repair & Maintenance Inc., launched the team in response to the nation’s growing need for professional mine rescue teams. Zeglen now coaches the Mount Nittany Mine Rescue Team.