If things go as planned, Alpha Natural Resources will be breaking ground on a state-of-the-art training facility in Julian, WV by June. The new facility is part of Alpha’s obligations to settle with the Department of Justice in regard to the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster, the State Journal reported.
“We think it will take about a year to construct,” Alpha Natural Resources CEO Kevin Crutchfield said. “We’re really excited about the leadership academy. We think it will be one-of-a-kind globally.”
Among the training opportunities the facility will offer is the ability to give people exposure to underground mining before they ever go underground.
“We’ll be able to simulate fire, smoke, give people the experience of learning the process, as opposed to putting them underground as a red hat with an experienced miner so they will be more up to speed that they would be otherwise,” Crutchfield said.
The facility is to include a mine lab of approximately 29,000 m (96,000 ft) where simulated mine situations and conditions can be presented to certified supervisors and examiners to solve and correct, facilities and equipment for electrical and maintenance skills training, and facilities and equipment for supervisory leadership skills training.
Steven Ruby, an assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia, said shortly after announcement of the agreement earlier this year that lax training was a major problem at Massey mines.
Through the agreement, Alpha will be required to employ a full-time staff at the facility and develop curricula in technical skills, operator skills, supervisory skills, various certifications, safety compliance and professional skills.
“Alpha will supervise the development of the curriculum to be used at the facility in Julian,” Ruby said. “While it’s not exclusively provided for in the agreement, our understanding is that Alpha intends to engage academic experts in helping to get the curriculum that they are going to use there. Certainly, we would expect and hope that they would reach out to the focus who are subject matter experts in the areas they are going to be taught at the training facility.”
Per the agreement, the facility, which will be open to other mining firms, is to be opened by no later than the second quarter of 2013.