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Mine safety conference kicks off in WV

REPRESENTATIVES of West Virginia politics as well as international industry were on hand to welcome attendees to the inaugural International Mine Safety and Health Symposium in Wheeling, West Virginia on Thursday. <b>Donna Caudill reports from the event.</b>

Donna Schmidt
Mine safety conference kicks off in WV

“My hope and my prayer today as we gather here ... is that these two days will be productive – full of new, creative, innovative ideas, great perspectives and groundbreaking advances in the mining industry,” Wheeling Jesuit University president Rev Joseph Hacala said, as he welcomed a crowd easily exceeding 300 at the university’s Troy Theater.

Hacala spoke about the use of “independent enlightenment” to aid everyone industry-wide to develop and then share their ideas for furthering mine safety and health. Reading a letter from US Senator Robert Byrd in his absence, he added the senator’s words that the industry has an “opportunity for significant advancement” and is confident that “together, we will rise to the challenge” to make the industry safer.

The school’s vice-president of sponsored programs, Davitt McAteer, who also serves as special advisor to West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin, a fellow speaker, said that with 17 deaths so far in the state and 30 nationwide, the event was a vital move in the direction of safety for all as technology moves forward. “That [number of deaths] is an unacceptable number and an unacceptable position for us to be in,” he said.

McAteer also spoke briefly on international and non-industry support that has stepped forward in an effort to provide assistance where needed, including upcoming presentations by Michael Griffith of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as well as National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) president Brian France and retired driver Brett Bodine.

While all of the groups – space exploration, race car driving and mining – all have their own dangers involved, McAteer noted that measures can be taken and have been taken by all to improve the safety of all workers.

It is that notion that is most appreciated by another speaker in attendance, Amber Helms – daughter of Terry Helms, one of the 12 Sago miners who lost their lives January 2 in southern West Virginia. She spoke briefly to guests noting that, “This accident – it didn’t happen just because it was an accident. This happened for a reason.”

Helms, now working to help assist mine safety efforts, said, “I’m helping as much as I can. If I can help more, let me know – I am here.”

The symposium will run through Friday evening at the Troy Theater and Wheeling’s Wesbanco Arena. Watch International Longwall News and American Longwall News for post-conference coverage.

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