Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and New Mexico Bureau of Mine Safety Hosts Mine Safety Table Top Exercise with New Mexico Mine Operators

by Carrie B. Moritomo, 505.699.2318

Carlsbad, NM, Oct. 10, 2007 – What would New Mexico do if it had a mine disaster, like the recent one in Utah?

“New Mexico, unlike Utah, has a state agency responsible for the safety of the state’s miners,” says Terence Foreback, New Mexico’s State Mine Inspector. “We have conducted a table top exercise in response to state requirements.”

The New Mexico Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (NMDHSEM), in conjunction with New Mexico Bureau of Mine Safety, hosted a mine safety table top exercise on Oct. 4, 2007, in Carlsbad, NM.

The exercise simulated natural gas inundation with an explosion, missing staff, and loss of communication in the Mosaic Potash Mine. The scenario allowed the participants to talk through notification procedures, discuss operating periods, evaluate how to deal with the media, and fold into the incident command system.

“This involved all possible facets of a mine rescue and allowed us to discuss resource allocation from numerous public and private organizations,” says Foreback.

NMDHSEM Director, Tim Manning, said “The table top [exercise] furthered the relationship between our agency and the mining operators of New Mexico. The end goal is to be able to collaborate and operate in a seamless fashion during an emergency.”

The mining companies present at the exercise were Chevron Mining Inc. McKinley Mine, WIPP/Washington TRU Solutions, Mosaic Potash, Chevron Mining Inc. Questa Mine, San Juan Underground and Intrepid Potash. Eddy County’s Emergency Management was also in attendance. The exercise was in response to mine operators’ request for additional planning, training, and exercises to be ready for a response situation.

The table top exercise in Carlsbad followed up a preliminary meeting in August which familiarized mine operators with the state's incident management system and statewide response capabilities of NMDHSEM.

The August meeting also facilitated sharing of emergency response plans among attendees. The mining companies present at the initial meeting were BHP Billiton, Chevron Mining Inc. McKinley Mine, WIPP/Washington TRU Solutions, Mosaic Potash, Chevron Mining Inc. Molycorp, Intrepid Potash, Phelps Dodge Chino Mines and Phelps Dodge Tyrone Mining. The Department of Labor’s Mining and Safety Health Administration was also in attendance.

To continue the process, the following actions are planned:

• Conduct a Joint Information System (JIS) - Joint Information Center (JIC) Training. This training will be for Communications - Public Information Officers of the organizations involved. This is a very important aspect of the incident command structure.

• Travel to the locations of the mining operations involved and present an incident command training to mine management members. This will tie together the discussions that have been held on a technical level, with the incident command structure, so management understands the process. Information will be forthcoming to industry on this aspect of the training.

NMDHSEM is responsible for coordinating the state’s response to natural or man made disasters. The department is the access point for mobilization of state resources during a disaster or emergency and is the bridge for assistance from the federal government to local governmental entities in times of disaster.

The Bureau of Mine Safety, under the direction of the New Mexico State Mine Inspector, is dedicated to promoting safe practice and physical well being among miners, contractors, operators, researchers and other persons associated with operating mines, or performing earthwork or rock excavation within New Mexico.

The BMS’s Mine Accident Emergency Operations Center is now available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. To report a mining accident please call: 1-866-761-6039.

-NMT-