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Mining Contract: Rapid Response Rescue Drilling System Development for Mine Rescue Application

Contract DetailValue
Contract #200-2011-40682
Start Date9/1/2011
End Date8/31/2013
Research Concept

Drilling boreholes—to offer assistance or rescue—is often the most time-consuming part of a rescue operation, and domestic mines need rapid response drilling technology to improve mine rescue situations. This contract will identify equipment needs, available contractors, and the development and demonstration process for a rapid response drilling system for mine rescue operations.

Program Area

Contract Status & Impact

This contract is complete. To receive a copy of the final report, send a request to

Mining professionals who work in the underground mining industry face the danger of becoming trapped by explosions, fires, inundations of water, or mine collapses. Two noteworthy successful mine rescues occurred in the Quecreek Mine (Somerset, PA) in July, 2002, and in the San Jose Mine (Copiapo, Chile) in October, 2010. The mine workers were reached by drilling a large-diameter borehole from the surface to the area where they were trapped. These two dramatic rescues demonstrate that boreholes can provide an alternative rescue method in cases where traditional means of escape are not available.

Through this contract, OMSHR recognized the need to capture and document the knowledge, methodology, and drilling equipment used in the above rescues in order to increase the probability for a successful rescue of any future mine workers trapped underground. The research funded under this contract analyzed the cumulative past experience of how to respond when miners are trapped underground and further developed existing drilling technology to develop an escapeway for these trapped miners. Past experience has revealed that trapped miners must be rescued in a timely manner to survive. The drilling of large-diameter boreholes has proven to be a reliable alternative method when other rescue efforts are either not applicable or unsuccessful.

This contract resulted in the development of a Rapid Response Rescue Drilling Protocol (RRRDP), a system designed to be implemented when drilling is the preferred method of rescuing trapped miners. This system includes specialized drilling equipment, a listing of all the drilling contractors in the United States capable of utilizing this specialized equipment, and a protocol that can be incorporated into a mine’s existing Emergency Response Plan (ERP). Using the RRRDP, if a mine emergency occurs, the mine’s Emergency Response Team can contact the drilling expert and mobilize the specialized drilling equipment in minimal time so that rescue operations can begin quickly and increase the likelihood that trapped miners will be rescued successfully.

The specialized drilling equipment fabricated under this contract research can be used to drill a 28-inch-diameter borehole from the surface to an underground location in a mine. In the event of a mine emergency, the fabricated drill bits and 200 ft of can-rods are available for immediate use in any application of the RRRDP and are stored at the Pittsburgh site, Bruceton, PA, of the Office of Mine Safety and Health Research.

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