On May 2nd, 1972 fire broke out in the Sunshine Mine, near Kellogg, Idaho, USA. At the time 178 miners were working in the mine. Carbon Monoxide, heat, and smoke spread quickly through the tunnels, hampering efforts of rescue workers. Initially, 85 miners escaped safely and two more were rescued seven days later. On May 13, the last of the 91 victims were brought out. The tragedy was the country's worst hard rock mining disaster since 1917. A miner's day ceremony is held on the second day of May each year to honor the men who died at the Sunshine Mine.
The International Collegiate Mining Competition started in 1978, in honor and remembrance of the fallen miners from the Sunshine mine as well as all miners who have perished in the line of duty. The goal of the competition is to keep the old-fashioned mining techniques alive, as well as strengthen the camaraderie of the mining students of today. Being the largest event of its kind in the world, it is highly competitive, and there is a great amount of prestige for the winners. In the past, universities and colleges from all over the United States of America, Mexico, Canada, England and Australia have been represented in the competition. The competition consists of seven events and is historically held over the Easter weekend. There are divisions in the competition for men's (open), women's and co-ed teams, and it is a fierce fight for the top few places.
The seven events in the competition are Jackleg drilling, gold panning, hand mucking, hand steeling, timber sawing, surveying and track stand. Points are assigned to each team in each event according to place of finish, and the lowest cumulative score at the end of all seven events is the overall winner. Plaques are awarded to the top finishers in each event, and a traveling trophy is awarded to the team who finishes first place overall. There are also various traveling trophies for first placed teams in individual events. In the past the competition has been dominated by teams such as the Mackay School of Mines (Reno, NV), Missouri S&T (formerly UMR / Missouri School of Mines) (Rolla, MO), Montana Tech (Butte, MT), and the Western Australian School of Mines (Kalgoorlie, Western Australia). The competition runs over two days, with around thirty teams from fifteen to twenty universities competing across all divisions.
The professional and local involvement in the International Mining Competition is substantial. Mining and service companies sponsor the competition each year. The competition is attended by anywhere from hundreds to several hundreds of people each year, depending on the location and promotional efforts of the hosting university. Each year there is media coverage ranging from local papers to nationally televised news programs and professional journals.