Underground mining has historically been a dangerous profession, necessitating complex rescue operations with specialised machinery. In its effort to achieve zero harm, South African coal mining houses have jointly funded the purchase of new rescue drilling equipment, designed to make underground rescue as seamless as possible. Vicky Sidler reports.

The worst mining disaster in South African mining history occurred in 1960 at Clydesdale colliery in Coalbrook where a fall of ground and gas poisoning claimed the lives of 435 miners. At the time, there were no drilling machines available that could drill holes large enough to give rescue workers alternative site access, and none of the bodies could be recovered.

It became clear to the industry that there was a need to develop a drill capable of boring a hole from the surface down underground to rescue trapped miners. “The first rescue drill unit has been in existence since the late 1960s. This is the third generation machine capable of outperforming earlier rescue drill hole versions,” says John Venter, Colliery Training College MD.

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