April 14, 2017

Mine rescue team shows off its skills in competition

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. – The fledgling mine rescue team at Southern Illinois University Carbondale got the chance to show off its skills earlier this month during a competition at the University of Kentucky.

The Rescue Dawgs, which got its start in 2016, finished fourth in the Society of Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration’s Eastern Collegiate Mine Rescue Contest, April 1 in Lexington, Ky. Also competing in this year’s contest were teams from the University of Kentucky, Virginia Tech University, Penn State University and West Virginia University.

Large, regional universities with roots in mining and heavy equipment operation have a vested interest in staying up-to-date with the latest safety and rescue approaches and protocols, which encourages them to support such teams. The Rescue Dawgs team is part of a Registered Student Organization at SIU known as the Saluki Miners. The team formed when mining engineering students became interested in learning more about mining safety and rescue, and it is believed to be the first collegiate mine rescue team in Illinois. 

The team began training for events in 2016, using the mine simulation and firefighting training center at Rend Lake College. Since then, the team has spent time slowly acquiring equipment donated from local underground mines.

Satya Harpalani, professor or mining and mineral resources engineering at SIU, and faculty adviser to the students, said there are several reasons that SIU chose to field a mine rescue team.

“First, nine out of 13 mining schools do participate. Hence, it is a good idea for SIU to have a presence there,” Harpalani said. “Second, participation does require a lot of practice and teamwork, and these are clear signals of dedication and desire and ability to work with others. These characteristics help the students’ marketability.”

The team from SIU placed higher than two schools that have long-standing mine rescue teams.

Members of the team, their class, major and hometown, include:

Ben Butcher, team captain and senior in mining engineering from Carlinville

Amadeusz Lord, gas monitor and junior in mining engineering from Poplar Grove

Justin Bollini, map reader and senior in mining engineering from Godfrey

Gopi Bylapudi, gas monitor and doctoral student in engineering science

Reece Kurre, radio operator and senior in mining engineering from Perryville, Mo.

Dan McManus, fresh air base and senior in mining engineering from Lockport

Liz Cox, fresh air base and “victim” and sophomore in pre-engineering from New Tazewell, Tenn.