Indiana’s underground mines produced three million tons of coal in 1998, which grew to around 10 million tons in 2003, and is projected to grow further in the coming years, according to the Indiana Coal Council.
But there are not enough trained underground mine workers in the state, and mining companies are finding it hard to recruit qualified workers, particularly for underground jobs, said Nat Noland, president of the Indiana Coal Council.
Opencut mining was the major employer until recently, with a whole generation of miners passed over, according to Noland.
Meanwhile, the Indiana Department of Labor and the state's mining industry have joined the effort, working with Vincennes University to offer a 40-hour training course for potential miners.
Nolan said it was hoped the new program, announced in August, would attract younger workers and help provide a source of labour for the future.
Last month, Vectren and Cinergy/PSI announced plans for a possible coal gasification plant in Indiana’s Knox County. This week, United Supply of America said it would build a $US400 million coal-fired power plant near Carmi, Illinois. If these plans come to fruition Indiana is a logical supplier of the coal.
Earlier in the week, Vigo Coal Company took applications at an Evansville hotel from people interested in jobs such as heavy equipment operators, truck drivers, field mechanics and drillers.
Indiana's underground mines are concentrated in the counties along the Wabash River from near Terre Haute to the Evansville area.