Greens Creek miners respond to Pogo fire

Greens Creek miners respond to Pogo fires

Photo courtesy Teresa Cummins/Hecla Greens Creek Mining Company

Three workers from Juneau’s Greens Creek Mine were among the emergency responders to the Pogo Mine in the Interior Tuesday, after an early morning underground fire forced the evacuation of 34 workers at the facility near Delta Junction.

The Greens Creek miners are part of “Central Mine Rescue” – a cooperative made up of workers from nine different mines in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest. They all train on the same equipment and are ready to assist other mines in the event of an emergency.

“Say like up at the Pogo Mine, we didn’t have to pack up, bring anything with us,” says Greens Creek Health and Safety Manager Teresa Cummins. “Our personnel are trained so that we can work with other underground mine rescue teams. We all are speaking the same language for an efficient and quick response when these nine members are in need.”

Cummins says the Green’s Creek miners were called in to assist Pogo’s mine rescue team. She hasn’t had any contact with them, but says it’s likely they didn’t see any action.

In the event of an underground emergency, the “Central Mine Rescue” agreement requires two teams of six respond – one in a primary role, the other as backup. The cooperative is run out of Couer d’Alene, Idaho, and puts out a call anytime there’s an emergency at one of the member mines. In the case of the Pogo incident, Cummins says Greens Creek was the first to respond that it had a team available.

“This is what they train for and I’m very, very proud of them,” Cummins says. “I had more volunteers than I had spots to send.”

Cummins says about 20 workers make up the Greens Creek’s Mine Rescue Team. Last month they competed in a “Central Mine Rescue” competition in Kellogg, Idaho, pitting workers from the nine member mines against each other in drills and training exercises.

Nobody was hurt in the underground fire at the Pogo Mine. The incident is under investigation by the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration.

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