West Virginia Uni takes coal award

THE Pittsburgh Coal Mining Institute of America has given its annual Stephen McCann Award for Excellence in Education this year to West Virginia University’s Mining Extension Service.
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WVU's mobile training trailer. Courtesy West Virginia University

Donna Schmidt

The award, bestowed typically to individuals for mining education efforts, was earned by the group for the “important and unique service” to US mining operators as well as new and experienced miner training, much of it onsite, provided by WVU’s tools.

The school developed its self-contained self-rescuer (SCSR) mobile training trailer, for example, the only one of its kind in the region. Officials said more than 2200 workers were trained in the trailer in 2008 using all of the most popular breathing devices used underground.

While much of the SCSR training completed at mines was historically done in a classroom, the Sago explosion of 2006 helped to prompt a milestone in mine safety, new federal regulations under the MINER Act, which required more true-to-life training.

Introduced to the industry within the last two years, the department’s trailer simulates mine entries, and uses theatrical smoke to simulate a real underground situation, along with the same lifeline used by crews.

Despite its recent projects, however, the Mining Extension Department’s history extends much farther back – the school has offered training to the coal industry since 1913 at mines as well as its Dolls Run headquarters.

“Our mission has always been to provide coal miners with the training they need to get a job and to work safely,” said department director James Dean.

“Specific training needs have changed over time as industry needs have evolved.”

Dean urged everyone working in a mine, or even in a similar situation, to get the training that the mobile classroom provides.

“It prepares you for an emergency in a way that no classroom training can,” he said.

The WVU MED also offers a new miner class, a continuing education class for mine foremen, and it is working on a mine rescue and fire brigade facility which will open in July and serve miners from three surrounding states.

Past McCann Award winners from WVU include faculty members Syd Peng, Christopher Bise, A Wahab Khair and Keith Heasley.