Before the ceremony actually began, several mine rescue professionals from around the world were savouring a truly Canadian treat, many for the first time. They smiled, took in the aromas and licked their fingers as they enjoyed their first taste of poutine.
Hundreds assembled at the Grace Hartman amphitheatre on Sunday evening for the launch of the 10th edition of the International Mines Rescue Competition, during which teams from all over the world compete, share knowledge and go home with new life-saving tools.
“I train mine rescue teams,” Erica G. said. “Three years ago I learned about this event and I promised myself next time I would be here. I came to observe and to improve my knowledge. It’s very important.” She is not competing at this year’s event and traveled solo from Africa.
G is Peruvian, but has spent the last six years working in a Glencore cobalt mine in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She has been a firefighter and paramedic for 20 years and now works as a health and safety superintendant, training others to rescue trapped miners. Originally she only planned to spend six months in the Congo.
“The conditions in Katanga (in the DRC) have improved,” she said. “It is safer now. … But the behaviour of the people can be dangerous.”
There were 27 teams from 20 countries across the globe at Sunday’s launch, including Australia, Ireland, Poland, Ukraine, Vietnam, China, Colombia, India, Russia, Slovakia and the United States, as well as seven Canadian teams.
The Colombians arrived Saturday and were all smiles on Sunday. They were quite excited to be in Canada. Sadly, they have been involved in mine rescues, but said the work is rewarding.
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