Indonesia’s Emergency Response Team participate in their first international mines rescue competition in Perth, Western Australia.
Training amongst the highlands of Papua, Indonesia surrounded by deep green forest, and a blanket of mist is just a typical day for Edward Suryanegara and his Underground Mine Rescue (UGMR) team. It’s a stark contrast to the searing sun and flat landscape of Australia’s West Coast, but this is where six firefighters from the PT Freeport Indonesia’s Underground Mine Rescue were destined.
In November 2019, the Indonesian squad became the first international Emergency Response Team (ERT) to compete at the Mining Emergency Response Competition (MERC) held in Perth, Western Australia. We spoke with the team’s Superintendent, Edward Suryanegara, to discover what led them to MERC.
PT Freeport Indonesia's Road to MERC
Edward Suryanegara has been a firefighter for PT Freeport Indonesia for almost two decades. As the Superintendent he is trained to lead, organise, and control mine rescue services and equipment across the site. It is clear to see how well he understands his role, as he quickly relays the extensive measures the team undergoes to maintain safety above and below ground, ultimately stating; “We save lives – we ensure our employees are prepared, and our tools and equipment are operationally available and ready to be called upon to respond to all incidents.”
The staunchness and unrivalled strength to his team and the cause is easy to see; he is dedicated and determined. “I joined the mine rescue team because I want to help people; to aid and service our mining communities. What we do as a team is bring stabilisation to an incident, we are trained to remain composed and in control. This is critical when other people’s lives are in your care.”
Being part of an ERT requires commitment and composure. “While there is added pressure when you are part of an ERT, I would not hesitate to be part of the team. As you train, you learn to cope, to live in balance. During an emergency, you focus on the incident at hand and maintain strong communications – this is how we manage ourselves.
Training is an important part of what we do; you have to be disciplined, consistent, and willing to learn, both physically and mentally. Every shift trains twice a week, but in the lead up to MERC we pushed ourselves even further.”
The Trials of ERT Competitions
The PTFI Mine Rescue Team was given the opportunity to participate in MERC 2019 with the support of PT Freeport Indonesia and MineARC Systems.
“This competition in Australia is a great experience for our guys to increase their rescue knowledge and will allow our Mine Rescue Team to show other rescue teams what we can do at PTFI,” said Chris Zimmer, Senior Vice-President, Mine Underground.1
Mr Suryanegara explains the team’s experiences in Perth, “MERC was an amazing learning experience, while we participate in similar events here, such as the Indonesian Fire and Rescue Competition (IFRC), being amongst a wider pool of teams was genuinely inspirational.
Not only did we have the opportunity to learn from respected counterparts, but it provides a platform to discover the latest safety technology and innovations – the VR training tent was an experience.”
He continues, emphasising the team’s active role in MERC “We work hard, and to have the opportunity to demonstrate our skill and professionalism in this calibre of event, as well as learn from other teams was very rewarding. The challenge and togetherness of the competition was a highlight, but the skills station was a personal favourite.”
Edward smiles as he reflects on the awards presentation; the sense of pride is intoxicating. “Walking away with the First Aid Scenario Trophy was amazing! The team trained from dusk until dawn, and to be recognised for our efforts in this way was unbelievable. I could not be more grateful for the team and the opportunity to compete.”
It is a high point to see ERT’s in action, with competitions such as MERC, providing the platform for colleagues, families, and the public to build their understanding of the efforts of these individuals. ERT’s and these events are vital to the development of safety in the resources industry. The expansion of this Perth-based event to include international teams has emphasised the contributions and learnings global participation and sharing of knowledge can produce.
Congratulations to Edward Suryanegara and the PTFI Mine Rescue Team, as well as MERC competitors throughout the years.