Sunday, September 25, 2011

Mine/Resource industry crisis preparedness

The mining resources industry has its fair share of risk. Some of the most sophisticated crisis management planning has been put in place by global mining and resource companies. Mining crisis management is tested, validated and integrated with emergency planning more than in most other industries. But the tragic loss of life in the mining industry continues as we saw in the recent Welsh colliery mining disaster, where the hunt for the miners ended with the news that all four miners were found dead. The tragedy played out typically through extensive live television, radio and press coverage, social media commentary and emotional family and community involvement throughout the escalation of the event.

In April 2010 in West Virginia, 29 miners were killed 1000 feet underground in the worst mining disaster in the US in 40 years. Thirty three Chilean miners were trapped in August last year in a massive cave-in. In this crisis, the miners were rescued in what was an outstanding example of rescue skills, crisis management planning and recovery. The miners were rescued after 69 days at 2,300 feet (700 m.) underground.

Currently, there is a Royal Commission of Inquiry into New Zealand's recent mine disaster in Pike River that killed 29 people. The Inquiry will examine and report on the causes of the explosions at the mine and subsequent loss of life, and all aspects of the safety regulatory regime and rescue operations at the mine.

Accidents will continue to happen. What resource companies and mining management must do is to shore up their strategic crisis management plans to link with emergency management plans, i.e.

* Be ready to make rapid strategic decisions as well as tactical response at site.
* Localise the response, while maximising corporate and strategic assistance.
* Create a tailor made plan around uniform standards.
* Train and validate plans with large simulations and training exercises.
* Start planning for recovery before a crisis occurs.
* Test critical information systems for sharing response actions.

What fundamentally distinguishes crisis-prepared from crisis-prone resource and mining organisations is their overall cultural view of crisis preparedness.