Throughout 100 years of rescues, the darkest day for the Queensland Mines Rescue Service (QMRS) was July 31, 1972.
That was the day of the Box Flat mine disaster in which 17 men, including eight mines rescue workers, were killed.
About 2.45am an underground explosion trapped 14 men, killed three men on the surface, and injured 10 others.
“One of the mines had a spontaneous combustion which quickly turned into a fire and the mines rescue teams were underground attempting to seal part of the mine off so that the company still had a mine,” CFMEU industry safety and health representative Greg Dalliston said.
“During that process the ventilation circuit in the mines changed direction and began drawing the gasses from the coals back in to the fire which caused an explosion.
“A lot of people lost friends and loved ones that day.”
QMRS chief executive officer Wayne Hartley said that a lot had changed since the Box Flat mine disaster to improve safety during rescue jobs.
“Historically rescue workers relied upon human instinct during emergencies,” he said.
“In the early days they didn’t have the monitoring of the environment. They used to listen to the mine, they would smell the environment and then they’d be keeping an eye out, although working they still worked in the dark with their cap lamps – which in those days were very crude and basic,” he said.
Mr Hartley said while the QMRS held on to a lot of tradition it had also implemented many changes since the disaster.
“Changes and technological advances over the years cement our strong future,” he said.
“We’ve seen changes like the sophistication in breathing apparatus and in gas monitoring, the first aid advance, and risk management procedures and protocols.”