October 05, 2011

Rockefeller, Manchin & Rahall Announce Federal Funds to Improve Mine Safety

WASHINGTON, D.C – Senators Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin, as well as Congressman Nick Rahall, today announced $437,000 in federal funding for organizations and universities to train miners and mine rescue teams to prepare for emergencies and prevent accidents.

“The tragedies at the Sago, Aracoma, and Upper Big Branch mines are vivid memories and we must do whatever it takes to prevent other mining accidents here in West Virginia and around the country,” said Rockefeller.  “These awards reaffirm the commitment we have made to continually look for ways to improve mine safety practices and make sure our miners and rescue teams have all the tools they need.  It should never be a question that miners will come home to their families each and every night, and their safety is my top priority.”

“Our miners are the backbone of this country, providing the power and energy for our homes and businesses, the steel and machinery that built our country into the greatest industrial power in the world and the military that keeps us safe and free,” said Manchin.  “In West Virginia, we’ve always done the heavy lifting.  We are very proud of what we’ve contributed to this country time and again, in times of war and times of peace, in times of prosperity and times of need.  Unfortunately, we have experienced our share of tragedy, most recently when precious lives were lost at Sago, Aracoma, and Upper Big Branch.  As West Virginia’s governor at the time, I worked hard to improve mine safety and make sure that the lives of our miners are valued above all else.  The safety of our mines is of the utmost importance, and I am pleased that these funds will enhance mine safety and training in West Virginia.” 

“With these grants, we are investing in proven miner health and safety programs.  The UMWA is first and foremost in helping ensure miner safety, and Marshall and Southern are stepping up with the latest in technology and ‘training the trainers’ programs,” said Rahall.  “Applying the rich experience and knowledge of the miners in our own back yards to worker safety makes practical and economic sense.  The UMWA and local experts, who best know the lay of the local mines, best serve the safety needs of our miners.”

The awards come from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA).  The Brookwood-Sago grants program was established through a provision in the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act of 2006, which Rockefeller helped introduce and worked to win passage for.  

The grants were named in remembrance of the 12 men who died in an explosion at the Sago Mine in Tallsmanville, West Virginia in 2006, and the 13 men who died in two explosions at the Jim Walter Resources Inc. No. 5 Mine in Brookwood, Alabama in 2001. 


The following organizations received awards:

$176,000 for the United Mine Workers of America Career Centers Inc.:

The organization will use the funding to develop a real-time simulation program for responding to emergencies that is relevant to new miners, new mine rescue team members, and experienced miners. The training will be offered to miners, mine operators, and mine rescue team members employed in coal mines in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia. 

$144,000 for Wheeling Jesuit University in Wheeling:

The school will use the funding to partner with the Academy for Mine Training and Energy Technologies at Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College to create the Active Training Portal for Mine Safety.  Working together, they will develop, implement, and evaluate a 16-hour “train-the-trainer” course that applies active learning to underground mine emergency prevention and preparedness. 

$117,000 for Marshall University in Huntington:

The school will use the funds to develop the Virtual Mine Safety Training Academy – a comprehensive, innovative mine safety training tool with a web-based, simulated campus environment that includes an underground room-and-pillar coal mine.