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The Mine Training Center
March 13, 2014 - Michael Palmer
Coal miners who feel that the government and EPA are regulating mines out of business and subsequently them into poverty recently received more bad news from the ODNR that the Mine Training and Safety Center in Cadiz was to be closed.
While West Virginia is boasting a new mine safety education and training center with it's state-of-the-art skills and mine emergency facility that will train miners, mine managers, and mine rescue teams the State of Ohio is tearing out their only simulator.
To be fair, the unwillingness of the lease holder on the building to release his contract is the primary reason for the closure of this most important section of the training facility.
It is most unfortunate that the two parties were unable to broker a deal on the building, which the state claims will need over $3 million of renovations just to meet code. Your question may be: Why is training outside of a classroom and inside of a simulator important?
Mine emergency rescue personnel must be ready to respond at a moment's notice to find and rescue fellow miners in some of the most extreme conditions imaginable. I truly appreciate how much preparation goes into response and recovery and have the highest respect for those brave miners who volunteer for this dangerous task.
That's why I believe so strongly in investing in training and technology that can protect both rescue personnel and miners.
Last week, I had the opportunity to talk with representatives of the ODNR and I can confirm that they remain committed to miner safety, that being said, without financial support and a concrete plan of action to replace the simulator section of the training center, it is little more than lip service.
The West Virginia training center was developed by Alpha as part of the December 2011 non-prosecution agreement with the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of West Virginia and the Department of Justice following Alpha's purchase of Massey Energy mines. One of those mines was Upper Big Branch, the site of the April 2010 explosion that claimed 29 miners' lives.
Credit must go to the Department of Justice and U.S. Attorney's office for their foresight in reaching this agreement with Alpha and in doing finding a way to help their miners.
The facility includes classroom space for up to 300 people; a mine lab with 96,000 square feet of space where mine situations and conditions can be simulated; a virtual reality lab with simulators to provide training on a continuous mining machine, roof bolter, scoop and haul truck; multiple labs for electrical, maintenance and welding training; facilities and equipment for supervisory leadership skills training; and a command center for mine rescue and emergency preparedness training. The center also has a research and development and advanced technologies section which will enhance safety and health in all of our nation's mines and, ultimately, save miners lives.
I told the ODNR representatives that the area of Ohio which produces coal is also the hub of the new oil and gas boom and sending some of those millions pouring into state coffers back into Harrison County for building a similar facility would be a positive sign from Governor Kasich's administration.
If we are providing the financial means to decrease taxes for the entire state, it puts in perspective a $23 million training complex, which in comparison would be just a small percentage of the tax money the state is receiving.
If you consider the tax dollars the state receives from just one high volume well would fund this facility, what is the objection?
Utilize one of the many abandoned mine facilities in the county, I would imagine the cost for the land would be minimal.
The uproar from local taxpayers saved the offices and classroom from being relocated to Guernsey County. Let's make some noise to get a real state-of-the-art facility for our miners.
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