A member of the British Cave Rescue Council MCRO - a member of the British Cave Rescue Council

S. & M.W.C.R.T. Rescue Practice


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Cwmystwyth Mine Rescue Practice, Saturday 16th May 2015

South & Mid Wales CRT held their biennial Mid-Wales 'mine' rescue practice at Cwmystwyth mine, Ceredigion in May. This event was a multi-team affair, with representatives from both North Wales Cave Rescue and MCRO joining in the exercise.


One of the aims of the exercise was of getting to know the site and each other better during the course of the day's activities. The scenario involved a group of six local youths who had gone missing whilst visiting the mine. Little further was known, other than that they were not equipped with SRT gear.


Team members assembling at the Cwmystwyth Mine site


The Cwmystwyth site comprises many entrances, shafts and open stopes spread across a wide area so it was natural for the teams to split into separate groups to scour the hillside, armed with a map showing potential entrances (many of which are no longer even visible!). With a number of teams and so many features it was perhaps inevitable that at times those running the incident control were a bit overwhelmed with the amount of information and radio traffic flowing back to them as entrances were checked off as having been investigated.


The first casualty was eventually located at the far end of Level Fawr. As one of the more frequently visited levels this is probably one of the more likely locations for a call-out. After the large collapse some ten years or so ago in this level, there's now a section of small diameter plastic drain pipe to negotiate before reaching the more extensive workings at the far end. Whilst there are alternative routes to evacuate the mine should this pipe become impassable, to do so with a stretcher would not be quick or straight forward, so it was a valuable exercise to establish how easily a casualty could be brought through this section.

A trailer full of rescue equipment is checked at the control point. One of the SMWCRT 'Cave Link' sets

Above: Unloading rescue equipment (left) and one of the 'Cave Link' sets ready for underground.


The day's exercise also gave teams the opportunity to try out the SWMCRT's  "Cave Link" through rock communications system. This is a text based comms system from Switzerland that operates through two electrode wires in much the same way as the HeyPhone. Although on first impressions it may be thought that loosing voice communication would be a restriction, in practice the system works very well. The interface is similar to a pre-smart phone era text messaging system, and indeed the surface units can be interfaced with the the SMS mobile phone network as well, allowing messages to be sent from underground to anywhere in the world! 


A second casualty was recovered from Taylor's Level, this entrance is notable for its over waist depth of water and the known presence of low oxygen levels. Both of MCRO's gas meters had been taken along for the day, giving all team members a chance to see a gas meter in operation under somewhat less than perfect conditions. With deep water to negotiate SMWCRT were also able to dust off and try out their floating stretcher. The casualty for the day did subsequently report that it was slightly disconcerting lying on the inflatable structure and being able to hear it leak, and whilst the rescue team found it very easy to float along as fast as they could move themselves, the fact that the head end of the stretcher was sitting notably lower in the water than the feet by the time they arrived at the entrance did suggest a more extended section of deep water might have caused problems in the absence of a puncture repair kit!


Ian Cooper (MCRO Warden)