“Build It and They Will Come”

270 international mines rescuers learn and compete at IMRC Canada 2016
Alex Gryska, Secretary Treasurer of the International Mines Rescue Body, welcomed the 27 mine rescue teams from 13 nations at the IMRC 2016 opening ceremonies. Photo: IMRC2016 – Canada Photo

While attending “IMRC Poland 2014” in Katowice, Alex Gryska as the General Manager of Ontario Mine Rescue was asked if Canada would consider hosting the next International Mines Rescue Competition (IMRC).   After numerous email and phone calls while still in Poland, Candys Ballanger-Michaud, President of Workplace Safety North and Ontario Mine Rescue, was in agreement and thrilled with the proposition however several conditions including approval from the Board of Directors would need to be met.  Although the more than 500 guests attending the awards banquet Poland were a little disappointed that there was no 2016 competition host nation announced … they knew there was hope.


Fast track the calendar to August 2016 after thousands of hours of hard work by countless staff and volunteers “IMRC Canada 2016” in Sudbury Canada was finally a reality.  During the opening ceremonies Alex Gryska, Secretary Treasurer of the International Mines Rescue Body, welcomed the 27 mine rescue teams from 13 nations by saying “Mining people know that the mines rescue is the most dangerous work associated with mining.  We also know that mines rescuers need to have special qualities including being courageous and having a deep respect for human life. Not surprisingly these are common principles held by all mine rescue organisations everywhere in the world.”

Ted Hanley, General Manager of Ontario Mine Rescue, was the architect of the competition embracing fundamental principles including realism while performing challenging tasks all with intent of ensuring learning takes place while being assessed by judges from across Canada and around the world. IMRC Canada 2016 consisted of six events including a technician competition, first aid contest, high angle rescue, theory testing, underground fire-fighting and an underground simulation.  Overall winners were selected from weighted scoring of the combined individual team events.

A total of 183 gold, silver and bronze medals was presented to first, second and third place finishers in each event which included the following:

Overall Winner:

The team of Canadian Kirkland Lake Gold became the IMRC 2016 Overall Winner


First – Canada, Kirkland Lake Gold
Second – Ireland, Boliden Tara Mines
Third – Poland, KGHM White Eagles

Emergency Underground Scenario:

First – Canada, Kirkland Lake Gold
Second – Canada, Compass Minerals, Goderich Mine
Third – Ireland, Boliden Tara Mines


First – Poland, Bytom
Second – USA, MSHA Mine Emergency Unit No. 1
Third – Canada, Cameco McArthur River

First Aid:

First overall – Australia, Peabody Energy Wambo Coal
Second overall – Ireland, Bolden Tara Mines
Third overall – Canada, Cameco McArthur River

High Angle Rope Rescue:

First overall – Poland, KGHM White Eagles
Second – Canada, Cameco McArthur River
Third – Canada, Vale Sudbury West Mines


First – Canada, Compass Minerals, Goderich Mine
Second – Goldcorp Americas
Third – Canada, Vale Sudbury West Mines


First – Russia, EMERCOM
Second – China, Shaanxi Coal and Chemical Group
Third – USA, MSHA Mine Emergency Unit No. 1

Some of the compliments relayed to organisers from participants, judges and observers included:

“You can be proud of all you have accomplished!”

“Congratulations for this amazing event.”

“Congratulations on an excellent mine rescue competition. You have set the bar high for the next one.”

“Great event!”

“It was a great experience for the Quebec mine rescue to participate of that event.”

“What a fantastic job! Having been involved as a participant, congratulations and thank you.”

“Congratulations again for putting on a great mine rescue contest!  I finally got to see all the great things that you guys do in Canada!  Our team loved it!”

“IMRC Canada 2016” was unique in many respects.  It attracted the number of teams at an international mine rescue competition.  For the first time, there were several women in competition which is common in Canada however not in most foreign jurisdictions furthermore there was a woman on the overall winning team.  Most events were realistic set in authentic settings including underground firefighting and a simulated response to an underground emergency situation.  And of course a high angle rescue event that was conducted in the spectacular Dynamic Earth cavern. 

Learning from such a large cross section of 270 international mines rescuers is invaluable. Dr. Sandra Dorman of the Centre for Research in Occupational Safety and Health collected data relating to Physiological Factors of Mine Rescue Volunteers which she plans to use to prepare a paper and present at the International Mines Rescue Conference (IMRB Russia 2017) next year in Russia.

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