Sudbury duo honoured for Totten Mine rescue efforts

Shawn Rideout, chief mine rescue officer at Ontario Mine Rescue, and Stephanie Bleker, manager of Vale Totten Mine, received the Mining Safety Leadership Medal from CIM Petroleum at its annual convention awards gala. (Supplied)

Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum (CIM) has honoured two people from Sudbury for their rescue efforts during last year's rescue at Totten Mine.

Shawn Rideout, chief mine rescue officer at Ontario Mine Rescue, and Stephanie Bleker, manager of Vale Totten Mine, received the Mining Safety Leadership Medal from CIM Petroleum at its annual convention awards gala.

The award was in recognition of the planning and execution of the evacuation of Vale’s Totten Mine last September, Workplace Safety North said in a news release.

“We are honoured that Ontario’s chief mine rescue officer has been recognized by his mining peers for the dedicated work put into the Totten mine evacuation,” Ted Hanley, vice-president of Ontario Mine Rescue at Workplace Safety North, said in the release.

“The CIM Mining Safety Leadership Medal is reserved for an exceptional contribution towards improving mining health and safety results within the mining industry in Canada. I can think of no better example than the work done last year to ensure 39 miners made it home safe to their families.”

A native of Timmins, Rideout has been chief mine rescue officer in Ontario since 2015. His mining background is rooted in operations and contract mining. Rideout served as an active mine rescue volunteer responder in the Timmins District before joining the Ontario Mine Rescue program based in Sudbury.

He described the Totten rescue operation to CTV last September. To get out, many of the workers had to climb at least 1,800 feet -- the equivalent of the CN Tower -- with some more than double that. While some miners were able to climb ladders, workers who are older or exhausted from the ordeal were pulled up using ropes.

"So that's something that we train for all the time in Ontario Mine Rescue," Rideout said.

"It's the safest possible way to make sure all 39 come to surface in as good a shape as they were when they went down Sunday morning."

For her part, Bleker is mine manager at Totten Mine with Vale. She is a mining engineer who started her career as a learner miner after which she worked in various production roles on underground and surface mines.

Her experience includes base metal, platinum, diamond and coal mines in Canada and South Africa.

"The most important part of each day’s work for Bleker is to ensure that all employees go home safely and to mine in a sustainable manner," the CIM said.

CIM is the leading not-for-profit technical society of professionals in the Canadian minerals, metals, materials and energy industries. Operating since 1898, the organization has more than 10,000 members.

Since 1929, the Ontario Mine Rescue program has been a standardized province-wide collaboration between all mine operators working to ensure emergency response capability and reduce the risk profile of the work performed by the more than 900 Ontario volunteer responders.