Mining rescue teams train, compete in annual competition in Blacksburg

BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ7) Mine rescue teams were getting special training this week in Blacksburg as part of an annual competition.

This is the 50th year the Virginia Mining Institute and Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy have hosted the competition.

It allowed teams from Virginia, West Virginia, Alabama, and Kentucky to train together and meet with other rescue crews.

While the course was above ground, officials said they try to make it just like a mine emergency.

Virginia Mining Institute President Brett Holbrook explained, "It's pretty realistic, maybe a little more challenging than what a true event may be on a technical side, and that's just to hone the skills and to get them to recognize all the different potentials that they may face. But the reality is if you're in an emergency, it's much more physical with the conditions that you may encounter."

The competition wrapped up Thursday at the Blacksburg Community Center.

Officials are already planning the competition for 2017.

Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy Public Relations Manager Tarah Kesterson said, "As long as one minor is mining coal, there needs to be a rescue team, at least two rescue teams. We want to keep those teams on top of everything, keep their skills polished, and them ready to go. So as long as the coal industry exists, so will these teams."