May 17, 2020

Mines Rescue Service: sharing a century of knowledge

Mines Rescue Service Limited
United Kingdom
5 min
Mines Rescue Service: sharing a century of knowledge
Mines Rescue Service Limited (MRSL) was originally established at the turn of the 20th century to respond to emergencies from the UK mining industry. Th...

Mines Rescue Service Limited (MRSL) was originally established at the turn of the 20th century to respond to emergencies from the UK mining industry. The company was part of the National Coal Board, later British Coal Corporation until its privatization in 1996. Since then it has been able to secure long term operational and financial success by leveraging its expertise to create new revenue streams, driving these gains straight back into the company. This work has also culminated in the company being in a confident position to double its turnover in the next five years.


Alongside its unique rescue services, the MRSL provides specialist equipment (some of which has been designed using practical expertise gathered on the job), consultancy and a range of specialized, accredited training courses to a variety of industry sectors, as well as confined spaces training. Aside from its individual on-site activities, the company has six facilities spanning the UK mainland, as well as a number of mobile training rigs. It employs some 140 people across its various operations and last year had a turnover of £11.5 million. 

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MRSL has been able to develop as a tried and trusted operator over the years, branching out from underground mining into providing its services to a large range of different industries, including nuclear, aerospace, manufacturing and utilities. It also provides services to clients who work in the petrochemical, renewables, chemicals, maritime and food and drink sectors. 


MRSL’s Commercial and Operations Director, Andrew Watson, explained that the source of the company’s fortuitous growth actually began when its operating costs could not be covered by its traditional industry, underground coal mines. He said: “The decision was taken to diversify the skills and expertise of the company’s employees into other industrial areas. The strategy was that, as the mining industry declined, we would increase our income from these new sectors of work, bringing with it new “learning opportunities” resulting in even higher individual and team skill levels.”

“Key to all of that was the introduction of the Confined Space Regulations at about the same time. We undertake practical, hands-on health and safety training, including fire awareness and first aid training; but the really big thing has been confined spaces training and the provision of specialist teams in high risk areas.” 

“We are planning for increasing turnover to some £20 million by 2020, achieved by further expanding the services we provide. We do not compromise on quality and intend to continue to innovate and develop our services.  We particularly target all aspects of confined space training, especially the provision of rescue cover for the high risk categorized work.  Unfortunately accidents still occur in confined space working being undertaken and awareness of the hazards still needs to be communicated better.”  

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The focus for MRSL therefore has shifted away from mining (although some mines remain) towards new areas for growth.  Confined space rescue cover has grown to become the largest source of revenue, while the company now provides a range of nationally accredited training courses for those who work in a variety of industries. 

He said: “We began by developing our own training courses and providing general services to industry. However, we decided to get ahead of the game and really emphasized quality within everything we do. We helped to establish national occupational standards, working with award bodies, and attained an understanding of how we could create our own standards.” 

The company has a history of more than a century of working in the mining industry. Implementing long standing control measures became particularly valuable when it came to considering alternate revenue sources, since this background could be directly applied to training in any organization, including the mining industry. 

Watson said: “We have traditionally worked closely with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE); we created a range of mining related qualifications in conjunction with them.  We identified the vocational route and created standards and qualifications appropriate to mining in order to establish and improve competence.”  

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“Universities and colleges were no longer providing these courses; there had to be an alternative in place so the HSE set up competence groups. There are 57 job descriptions within an underground coal mine and we developed a national standard for each of these--everything from a mineworker to the technical side.”  

Having built up a strong business alongside a well-developed range of expertise, MRSL is now also delivering its services to the oil, gas and marine industries. Furthermore, the prospect of growing substantially (and into new territory at that) prompted a rethink into how the company will grow in future. Watson explained: “Bear in mind that while this is an employee owned company, we have changed our approach and are now considering opportunities for investment, demonstrated by the creation of a wind renewable energy training facility at our site in Scotland.”

International standards 

During preparation for the privatization of British Coal, Mines Rescue identified that in its new format it would need to adhere to best practice standards in the form of the ISO 9001. This became a trend that has shaped MRSL both internally and externally. Since then, it has achieved both the ISO 14001 (for environmental management) and OHSAS 18001 (for health and safety management). 

Having been involved in the development of quality training systems for UK industries, the company was then able to use these standards to offer services internationally. Watson said: “We’ve been to South Africa, China, Ukraine, India and Russia. The Russian government is actually going to present us with an award for the work we have been doing on sharing best practice.”

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In short, MRSL, faced with the decline of the industry it previously relied upon for both its service provision and revenue, decided to branch out while still providing the service needed by the mining sector.  By focusing on quality throughout all of its operations, the company has also been able to help define the meaning of safety generally across the country’s industrial sectors. 

Watson concluded: “We haven’t undertaken a lot of marketing, but find work via reputation and word of mouth. We don’t have a sales or marketing team; we’ve got recognized skills and expertise. It’s never about selling a product to somebody; it’s mainly about going out and solving a problem for someone.”

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May 8, 2021

Global iron ore production to recover by 5.1% in 2021

Iron ore
Anglo American
2 min
After COVID-19 hit iron ore output by 3% 2020, GlobalData analysis points to 5.1% uptick in 2021

Global iron ore production fell by 3% to 2.2bnt in 2020. Global production is expected  to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.7% to 2,663.4Mt between 2021 to 2025. The key contributors to this grow will be Brazil (6.2%), South Africa (4.1%), Australia (3.2%) and India (2.9%). Key upcoming projects expected to commence operations include South Flank in Australia (2021), Zulti in South Africa (H2 2021), Serrote Da Laje in Brazil (H2 2021) and Gudai-Darri (2022), according to GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

Iron Ore

Vinneth Bajaj, Associate Project Manager at GlobalData, comments: “Declines from Brazil and India were major contributors to the reduced output in 2020. Combined production from these two countries fell from a collective 638.2Mt in 2019 to an estimated 591.1Mt in 2020. The reduced output from the iron ore giant, Vale, was the key factor behind Brazil’s reduced output, while delays in the auctioning of mines in Odisha affected India’s output in 2020.

“Miners in Australia were relatively unaffected by COVID-19 due to effective measures adopted by the Australian Government, while a speedy recovery in China led to a significant 10.4% increase in the country’s iron ore output.”

GlobalData iron ore


Looking ahead, the global iron ore production is expected to increase by 111.3Mt to 2,302.5Mt in 2021. Rio Tinto is expected to produce up to 340Mt of iron ore, while BHP has released production guidance of 245–255Mt, supported by the start of the Samarco project in December, which is expected to produce between 1–2Mt.The company has retained its guidance for Australian mines at 276–286Mt on a 100% basis, due to scheduled maintenance work at its ore handling plant and tie-in activity at the Area C mine and South-Flank mine.

Anglo American

Bajaj added: “The remaining companies are expected to produce more than 600Mt of iron ore, including FMG, whose production is expected to range between 175–180Mt supported by its Eliwana mine that commenced operations in late December 2020, and Anglo American, which is expecting to produce between 64–67Mt. Vale is expected to resume 40Mt of its production capacity, taking its overall production capacity to 350Mt in 2021, with production guidance of 315-335Mt.”

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