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The History of TMERC

What we know as today’s Tasmanian Minerals Emergency Response Committee (TMERC) has a long history founded in 1987 by Workplace Standards as the Tasmanian Mines Rescue Steering Committee.

The same principles that make the current TMERC a nationally-recognised and emulated collaboration were behind the first committee’s gathering 31 years ago involving Mt Lyell, Renison, Cornwall Coal, Rosebery and Que River mines. Chairmen through this initial period included Richard Holder, John Lamb and Ben Maynard.

The Early Years

In 1981 the foundation was laid for the TMEC of today when general managers of Tasmania’s mining and mineral processing industry moved to establish a stand-alone organisation to represent the state’s unique needs and political landscape. It took a further four years before the Tasmanian Chamber of Mines was officially gazetted in December of 1985 with the General Manager of Comalco Aluminium, Jim Stewart as its President.

It was a tumultuous time in Tasmania’s political history with votes of no confidence in the Premier occurring in parliament and a plebiscite on the preferred structure of a hydro-electric power scheme dividing the state. Blockades of the Franklin Dam site were common in the early 1980s, led by the Tasmanian Wilderness Society, giving the original seven-member Chamber much to discuss.

At its formation, the Tasmanian Chamber of Mines comprised of members representing Comalco Aluminium, EZ Risdon, Stacpoole Drilling, CRA, Cornwall Coal, Savage River Mines and Dept Mines.

By the end of the decade, the Chamber office had moved to the Tasmanian Minerals Centre on the corner of Davey and Murray Streets in Hobart and work was being done to counter the Greens anti-mining campaigns. In 1991, Jack Symons was recognised as a Life Member of the organisation.

Mutual Aid Agreement and Competitions

The group set out to establish a mutual aid agreement between Tasmanian underground mining operations and initiate an annual Tasmanian Mines Rescue Competition to develop and share skills and equipment. True to their word, the first competition was held in 1987 at Mt Lyell with five competing teams.

The achievements of this forward-thinking committee are many and often demonstrate leadership in the Australian industry. Tasmania is the only Australian state to have standardised Captain’s paperwork, standardised training across all member sites and have a Workplace Standards representative as an active committee member as examples.

By the end of the 1990’s, Savage River mine and Rio Tinto Alcan – two non-underground sites – joined the committee, expanding its scope and experience to include a broader range of emergency responses.

Historic competition results – proportion of winning teams:

Cornwall 26%, Mt Lyell 23%, Rosebery 13%, Aberfoyle 13%, Renison 10%, Grange 10%, Beaconsfield 3%, Henty 3%

Mines and Mineral Processors

Another decade on, the committee changed its name to the Tasmanian Minerals Emergency Response Committee and extended its base to include all mineral processing operations in the state. Governance improvements at the same time created a committee membership that comprised of a senior representative of each mine or mineral processing facility with an emergency response capability and a direct reporting line to the TMEC Board of Directors.

Tasmanian Leaders

The committee’s achievements proudly continued with Tasmania becoming the only state to recognise member service, to have standard marking sheets for competitions and to have Captains’ training, and to have the first all-female mine rescue team in Australia.

A true reflection of the collaborative and close-knit emergency response teams in Tasmania is the willingness and ability for our state to present a combined team from all Tasmanian sites in the national competitions.

Four Tasmanian teams have competed in the Victorian Mine Rescue Competition; Mt Lyell, Renison, Rosebery and Henty.

Today’s TMERC membership includes Bell Bay Aluminium, Bluestone Renison Bell, Cement Australia Cornwall & Railton, Copper Mines of Tasmania, Grange Resources, Henty Gold, MMG Rosebery, Nyrstar and TEMCO.

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