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Two Sudburians awarded for Totten Mine rescue efforts

Vale mining engineer Stephanie Bleker and chief Ontario Mine Rescue officer Shawn Rideout awarded for their work in the rescue of stranded miners at the Totten Mine
270522_shawn rideout stephanie bleker totten mine
Shawn Rideout is the chief of Ontario Mine Rescue, while Stephanie Bleker is a mining engineer with Vale. Both have been awarded by the Canadian Institute for Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum for their work during the Totten Mine rescue operation in 2021.

Two Sudburians have been awarded the Mining Safety Leadership Medal from the Canadian Institute for Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum (CIM).

The CIM awards were recently presented to Stephanie Bleker, Manager and engineer at Vale Totten Mine, and Shawn Rideout, Chief Mine Rescue Officer at Ontario Mine Rescue. 

CIM said the award was in recognition of the planning and execution for the safe evacuation of 39 miners stranded in the Totten Mine last September.

The Totten incident began after the shaft was damaged while trying to sling a scoop (LHD) bucket. It meant that 39 miners on shift were stranded underground and spent three days in refuge stations.

Unable to use the cage (underground elevator) the miners were faced with climbing the ladders to the surface, in some cases more than 4,000 feet. It would be a significant physical challenge for miners who had just worked a 12-hour shift and many had not eaten well or slept well in the refuge stations.   

Vale and the mine rescuers worked together to set up a unique rope rescue system that allowed them to bring the miners to surface from several different levels of the mine. 

The rescuers used the Arizona Technicians Edge Kit (AZTEK) rope system that helped set up ropes every 20 feet in the mine. Rescuers were not able to use a traditional system because of the design of the ladder system. The AZTEK system worked well and will be included in the Ontario rescue toolkit.

Ted Hanley, the Vice President of Ontario Mine Rescue at Workplace Safety North, said in a news release he was pleased with the honour.

“The CIM Mining Safety Leadership Medal is reserved for an exceptional contribution towards improving mining health and safety results within the mining industry in Canada. I can think of no better example than the work done last year to ensure 39 miners made it home safe to their families," Hanley said.

"There are very few mine rescue operations during which so many volunteer responders must contribute to so many unique and extensive components,"  Hanley said. 

"The fact that this was coordinated safely, without incident or injury, is an achievement that Rideout and Bleker should be extremely proud of," he added. 

The CIM awards were presented at the CIM annual convention and awards gala held in Vancouver earlier this month.