About Ontario Mine Rescue

Ontario Mine Rescue provides the following information about its role and history:

"In Ontario, the law requires that every underground mine establish and maintain a mine rescue program. Each underground mining operation is required to also establish and maintain a detailed emergency response plan. Ontario Mine Rescue (OMR) is such a program for the province of Ontario. It is a part of Workplace Safety North (WSN) and operates under the authority of the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Headquartered in Sudbury, OMR staffs, equips, and maintains a network of mine rescue stations across the province that ensure mines within a specified geographic area have adequate emergency response capability.

"Mine Rescue Stations in Ontario are currently located in: Delaware, Wawa, Kirkland Lake, Onaping, Red Lake, Sudbury, Thunder Bay."

According to a 2021 news release from Ontario Mine Rescue, 900 men and women across the province were serving as active Ontario Mine Rescue volunteers at that time. The program is funded by the government and has a technical advisory committee made up of representatives of the mining industry. At that time, there were 40 active mining operations in Ontario, most of which are in northern Ontario.

History of Ontario Mine Rescue

"Ontario Mine Rescue was born out of the tragedy of the Hollinger Mine fire that claimed the lives of 39 miners in Timmins in 1928. Neither the mine, the town or even the province had the expertise or the resources to respond to save their lives or adequately fight the fire. Mine rescue teams from Pittsburgh had to be called in to extinguish the fire, while recovery operations were left to local mine management.

"The resulting provincial royal commission recommended the creation of an Ontario Mine Rescue organization under the Department of Mines to respond to underground mine fires. Over the past 90 years, Ontario Mine Rescue has evolved as lessons learned from mine rescue operations provided valuable insight for future endeavours.

"The 1947 East Malartic Fire marked a major turning point for Ontario Mine Rescue as teams from Timmins, Kirkland Lake, and Sudbury responded to a call to help fight a mine fire in Malartic, Que. It was the first and only time Ontario Mine Rescue teams responded to an out-of-province emergency. While working together, it became evident each district had different training and maintenance standards. As a result, the position of Senior Mine Rescue Officer was created to ensure province-wide standards in mine rescue training and equipment maintenance were established and maintained.

"In 1965 another mine fire in Timmins, this one at the McIntyre Mine, forced the organization to make another change. The underground distance rescue teams had to travel to reach the fire was so great that the two-hour McCaa [breathing] apparatus was not sufficient to allow them time to fight the fire. In 1966, after investigating and testing different apparatus, the BG174 was purchased to allow for a four-hour capability. The BG174 proved a workhorse for almost 40 years before it was replaced by the BG4.

"Ontario Mine Rescue took on added responsibility in 1984 after four miners were trapped and killed in a rockburst at Falconbridge No. 5 Shaft near Sudbury. The Stevenson Commission recommended that the organization's mandate be expanded to conduct training in and respond to non-fire emergencies. Training on non-fire rescue equipment began shortly after.

"In January 2001, responsibility for Ontario Mine Rescue was transferred to the Mines and Aggregates Safety and Health Association, now a part of Workplace Safety North (WSN). The program was modernized with state-of-the-art equipment including the Drager BG4 self-contained breathing apparatus. Standardized competency-based training programs were developed to ensure consistent delivery of information to mine rescue teams across the province.

"These and other developments have made Ontario Mine Rescue a role model for the establishment of training and safety programs for mine rescue organizations in other provinces and countries."[1]

For 73 years, Ontario Mine Rescue hosts a provincial competition to ensure that teams are on the same page and ready to do their duty to the highest standards.

Ontario's mine rescue competition is designed to simulate a complete incident response with numerous integrated tasks. A competition includes team preparation and team briefing, followed by solving a complex incident that will typically include triage, the use of special equipment and firefighting.


1. Ontario Mine Rescue 

This article was published in
Number 14 - March 17, 2023

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