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Remarks of Assistant Secretary of Labor Dave D. Lauriski
Mine Safety and Health Administration
2004 Metal and Nonmetal National Mine Rescue Contest
Reno, NV
July 15, 2004

Thanks, Bob, for that kind introduction.

Good evening, everyone.

First off, I'd like to thank MSHA's Metal/Non-Metal Planning Committee who put this competition together. They put in countless hours of work to organize this great show and get all of you here, housed, fed and competing. Let's give them a hearty round of applause and thanks right now.

And I think we should recognize Eddie Lopez for his vision and for his passion in making this event such a success.

I'd like to extend a warm welcome to all of you here tonight. There are 29 mine rescue teams representing mining companies in 11 states - what a great turnout! And welcome to our own Metal/Non-Metal MSHA team. I am pleased to see that so many teams have come not only to participate in this competition but to share ideas and experiences that could be called upon if needed. The spirit of teamwork and collaboration not only extends to your own team members, but to other teams as well. And you know it is teamwork that results in success. Thank you for your commitment, your dedication, for your compassionate spirits. And thank you to each of your companies' management, who recognize the value these competitions provide. Through this recognition, they too show this same commitment, dedication and compassion.

I understand that representatives of the Coast Guard's National Strike Force - Pacific Strike Force Team were also present over the past three days to observe your skills. I know they found plenty of fellowship and camaraderie here - and picked up some great techniques for their own rescue work. I hope that they left some of their ideas and experiences as well.

The folks from our Mine Safety and Health Academy did a great job in capturing the highlights of the week on video, didn't they? Thanks for all your creativity and enthusiasm in recording the action - I know the participants appreciate your record of this week's events.

I want to recognize two teams who went to Glogow, Poland to compete in the 4th International Mine Rescue Contest on June 3rd and 4th. The team from Cargill Salt: Barry Carlson, Lonny Badeaux, Steve Allenson, Lynn Bayard, Dave Bickel, Greg Borders, Dave Bird, Marty Hickey, Dale Munch and Clayton Tellerin. You folks can be very proud of your record there - fifth in field competition and third place in overall. Great job!

And our very own MSHA team: Gary Hebel, Mike Dunlap, Charles Dame, Ron Costlow, Tom Todd, Link Selfe, Tim Watkins, Jan Lyall, and Virgil Brown. They placed third in field competition and second place in the GB-174 bench competition. Well done! We are all very proud to be associated with you! You showed the world mining community why we are proud to be Americans. Thank you!

Finally, and most importantly, I would like to give a special welcome to the co-workers, friends and families of the participating teams. Whether you realize it or not, you are as integral to the success of these teams as the members themselves. Without your care and support, these team members would find their jobs much more difficult. And special gratitude is due the spouses of the team members. I would have to say that one spouse is owed a great deal of gratitude: Penny Lewis. She is just a remarkable lady to put up with her mine rescue team spouse.

I know it is hard to give up the time with your spouses - but the time you give up so that your loved ones can train means they will be prepared to help others if it is ever necessary. Your sacrifices make the teams' successful work possible. Thank you from MSHA.

As most of you know, I am very familiar with the work of mine rescue teams. I taught my first mine rescue class more than 30 years ago, and I have a great deal of experience as a rescue team member and as a trainer. I know exactly what you've been through over the last week, and I admire all of you for it. And, as much as I like my current position, a big part of me wishes I could be out there with you, training and competing just like you did the pas couple of days.

While we all hope that all you do is train and compete, we also know the training and hard work pay off. Last December, it paid off for miner Robert Slone. Mr. Slone was drawn into a chute under the Beartooth Mountains, just north of Yellowstone National Park, at the Stillwater Mining Company's platinum and palladium operation near Nye, Montana. First using a slusher hooked up backwards to clear a horizontal path to the vertical chute, the rescuers, which included members of Stillwater's Mine Rescue team, then dug the debris out of the chute by hand, using 5-gallon buckets to remove it. Miraculously, nearly 12 hours after the 9 a.m. slide that buried him, Robert Slone was freed from the slide, injured but alive. That's what this competition is all about. That's what you do. You train and work hard to be ready for the day we hope will never come. Having a chance to visit with you and watch you over the past three days has reinforced my respect and admiration toward each of you. This sentiment applies equally to those who have worked so hard putting this event on.

In just another few minutes, I promise we will get to the heart of this evening's festivities: recognizing teams and individuals for their outstanding performance over the past few days. We will also be recognizing five very special individuals for their contributions in support of mine rescue.

But first, I want you to understand that you are all the best. Collectively and individually, you have shown the skills and dedication, the determination and the perseverance to master the skills you need to help your fellow miners. You represent the best in people: you have sacrificed and are prepared to sacrifice to help others. That makes you all champions.

I heard a quote the other day that really describes mine rescue teams: "Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships." Michael Jordan said that - and I think he knows. It's true - you are all extraordinarily talented individuals, but together, as a team, you are all winners. All of you bring your unique talents and forge them into something much greater than your individual specialties. You make teams and you create success.

We need to rely on and support each other, because we never know when we will need your skills and expertise. We can all celebrate the very special fellowship that has been shared over the past few days, and know that this teamwork and camaraderie, and the skills you have developed and shown here during this competition, will successfully carry you through any job you are faced with. Congratulations to all of you, and thank you for allowing me to be a part of this great community.

So, let's celebrate!