Mine Rescue Service

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Mine Rescue Service


a service established to rescue miners, to prevent mining accidents, and to clear the scene of accidents and restore normal working conditions in shafts and pits. The most dangerous accidents are explosions of mine gas (methane) and of coal or pyrite dust, underground fires, sudden releases of mine gas and coal, mine shocks, and rushes into mining excavations of quicksand and underground water. To prevent poisoning during accidents (primarily from carbon monoxide), miners are supplied with portable filtering or isolating gas masks. A mine rescue service is organized to rescue miners trapped by accidents in shafts and pits and, in those instances in which gas-protection devices (respirators) must be used, to clear the scene of accidents and restore normal working conditions.

The first mine rescue teams, made up of volunteer mine workers, were formed in the first half of the 19th century in the coal mines of Cardiff and South Wales (Great Britain) and in the mines of the Saar (Germany). An important milestone in the development of mine rescue service was the invention of the compressed-oxygen respirator by the Belgian professor T. Schwann in 1853. It is the prototype of modern respirators (seeMINE RESCUE EQUIPMENT).

In capitalist countries mine rescue services are organized on the basis of teams of volunteer mine workers. Only a few large mines have established mine rescue stations with five or six professional mine rescue workers, who ensure that oxygen respirators for the volunteer teams are tested and in working order. In some coal-mining regions there are professional central mine rescue stations with small staffs. Their task is to train the members of the volunteer mine teams in the use of respirators and to assist them in the event of an accident.

The first mine rescue station in Russia was established in 1907 at Makeevka (Donbas). This station conducted rescue operations, organized and trained volunteer mine rescue teams made up of mine workers, and carried on scientific research related to mine rescue and safety techniques. In the Soviet period the station greatly expanded its activity, forming the basis of the Makeevka Scientific Research Institute for WÓ rk Safety in the Coal Industry (Mak NII), established in 1927. The institute functions as an all-Union agency. The first directors of the Makeevka rescue station, mining engineers D. G. Levitskii (1908–16) and N. I. Chernitsyn (1912–17), were associated with the development of mine rescue service in Russia. Their research on mine gas, on determining the explosive potential of coal dust, and on combating mine accidents formed the scientific foundation for organizing mine rescue services in shafts and pits. Mining scientists A. A. Skochinskii and A. M. Terpigorev devoted a great deal of attention to the development of mine rescue work in the USSR.

On Mar. 5, 1930, a law on mine rescue service in the USSR was enacted. In 1932 mine rescue stations were brought under central direction, and in 1934 the personnel of these stations was organized along military lines in order to improve discipline. The mine rescue stations were renamed paramilitary mine rescue units (VGSCh). The operating efficiency of the units improved markedly after they were militarized. Whereas the former nonparamilitary mine rescue stations required 100–120 sec to assemble before setting out in response to an accident and between four and 11 min to prepare the team for descent into the mine, the paramilitary mine rescue platoon assembled for departure in 40–50 secand within one to two min was ready to descend into the mine. In the period between 1932 and 1936 the number of workers in the VGSCh increased almost sevenfold. After the formation in 1934–35 of the people’s commissariats (later called the ministries) of the coal industry, of ferrous and nonferrous metallurgy, and of the chemical industry, an administration of paramilitary mine rescue units was established within each ministry. The shafts and pits of a region are served by a mine rescue detachment, and a group of shafts or pits (from one to ten) located within a radius of 5–10 km is served by a mine rescue platoon. Additional mine rescue points are established at large mines, at mines where there is unusual danger from gas, dust, or fire, or at mines that are distant from the main group. The main operational unit of the mine rescue service is the platoon consisting of three or six squads, each with a squad leader, five respirator operators, and a driver. The disposition VGSCh subdivisions and their communications with the mines are calculated so that the subdivision serving a given mine will be able to arrive within ten min of an explosion, followed by other subdivisions within 20–40 minutes. When large-scale accidents requiring the summoning of many subdivisions occur, trains and aircraft are used in addition to motor vehicles. All means of transportation carrying the VGSCh to the accident have the right of way. The VGSCh are stationed in a special area that includes an administrative building, residential buildings, a training mine, and buildings for storing and repairing equipment. Subdivisions of the VGSCh are supplied with the most highly refined gas-protection devices (isolating oxygen respirators) and with fire-fighting and mine rescue equipment.


Khodot, V. V. Gornospasatel’noe delo. Moscow-Leningrad, 1951.
Solov’ev, P. M. Organizatsiia gornospasatel’nogo dela v shakhtakh. Moscow-Khar’kov, 1951.
Sobolev, G. G. Organizatsiia gornospasatel’nykh rabot, 3rd ed.Moscow, 1959.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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