Sponsored by the National Mining Association (NMA) and administered by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), the four-day competition includes team and individual competitions, as well as exhibits from companies and suppliers of coal mining equipment and services.

In the field competition, teams must solve a hypothetical mine emergency problem. They will be rated on how well they adhere to rescue procedures, and how quickly they complete specific tasks. In the bench contest, miners must ensure that equipment, such as multi-gas instruments and self-contained breathing apparatuses, work properly.

First-aid contestants must demonstrate correct methods of caring for an injured miner, and pre-shift examiners will be evaluated based on proficiency in identifying potential hazards before a shift begins.

Mine rescue competitions first began in 1911 with a mine safety demonstration in Pittsburgh, where then-President William H. Taft attended.