Safety at Goldcorp: A universal language

Aug 12, 2013

Highlights from this year’s Mine Rescue Summit in Reno, Nevada.

It had all the drama of a real-life rescue: emergency crews responding to fires, administering first aid and pulling victims from crashed vehicles.

However, what unfolded in the Nevada desert in June was a well-executed training exercise for Goldcorp employees - one that was about more than just preparing to protect each other in the event of a real emergency.

Goldcorp’s inaugural Mine Rescue Summit, held in Reno from July 8 to the 12, was a chance to promote shared learning, communication and collaboration across operations.

Unlike many mine rescue events, this one wasn’t about the competition.

“It was about the opportunity to learn from each other,” said Bernie Haley, mine project planner at Goldcorp’s Musselwhite operation and one of many responsible for organizing the Mine Rescue Summit.

The event included 12 teams of six-to-eight people from Goldcorp mines sites across Canada, Mexico, the United States, Guatemala and Argentina, as well as judges, local fire fighters and other experts. Participants spoke three different languages - Spanish, French and English – but communicated in the universal language of safety.

"The spoken language was unnecessary,” said Ron Everett, the administration manager at Goldcorp's Wharf mine. “When you looked across the room and watched someone doing first aid or a fire drill or extraction it was all the same language, and you understood what they were doing and where you could contribute.”

The idea to host a Mine Rescue Summit was developed by a group of Goldcorp supervisors as a project in a training course a few years back. Reno was chosen as the best site given its central location for employees across North, Central and South America. The venue was a regional training centre used for area police fire, ambulance and search and rescue, while a local hotel and convention centre was used to host seminars and meetings to further round out the educational part of the summit, with health and safety workshops.

Mine rescue crews simulate a low angle rescue at the training facility in Reno, Nevada.

As part of the practical program, teams simulated rescues from vehicles, confined spaces and fires. The drills helped to hone the skills of employees and encouraged team building among participants from different mine sites.

“Every single team tackled it head on, regardless of the language barrier or any other barrier,” said Haley.

Monica Arrese, a geologist at Cerro Negro in Argentina and a member of the site’s rescue team, said she picked up new skills by practising and training with her colleagues from all across Goldcorp.

“I learned a lot of different techniques to solve emergency situations, especially in first aid, since I had three paramedics on my team, one from Wharf and two from Los Filos,” she said. “Every rescuer contributed with his knowledge and experience.”

Trilingual Goldcorp Mine Rescue Team at the training facility in Reno, Nevada.

Sharing skills and knowledge across different operations was the overarching goal of the event, said Markus Uchtenhagen, Goldcorp’s Mine Rescue Project Manager.

The Summit also included some challenges for mine general managers and members of the executive team, including chief executive officer Chuck Jeannes and chief operating officer George Burns.

“It was an opportunity to show some of our corporate staff what mine rescue is all about and give the mine employees a chance to get to see some of their senior leaders and observe them in a different light,” said Uchtenhagen. 

Both Uchtenhagen and Haley hope to make the Mine Rescue Summit a regular Goldcorp event every couple of years.

“We wanted to use the wealth of talent that we have from within the company to its maximum, and I feel that we demonstrated that we have the skills and desire within our company to become a leading force in the rescue field,” said Uchtenhagen. 

The Mine Rescue Summit proved that, irrespective of market conditions, Goldcorp's focus on safety remains unwavering.

Click here to view video and photo highlights from the week.

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