JULIAN – Alpha Natural Resources officially opened a new mine safety facility in Julian on Thursday that is the first of its kind to offer extensive mining curriculum, along with hands-on training with the most modern and latest state-of-the-art technologies.
The “Running Right Leadership Academy” is a comprehensive education and training facility for mine safety and operations. “The success of our company and industry starts with safety,” said Kevin Crutchfield, chairman and CEO of Alpha Natural Resources.
“The Running Right Leadership Academy is the culmination of years of planning and hard work, and we are proud to have brought this concept to reality. The scale and scope of the facility is the first of its kind in the industry, demonstrating our leadership and commitment to the well-being of our employees.” Crutchfield says the new academy offers hands-on learning for those in the mining industry like nowhere in the world.
“This is a manifestation of Alpha’s Running Right Way Policy,” he said.
“This is a historic beginning for the future on mine safety, health and training.”
Alpha has invested approximately $23 million into the facility and development of the curriculum which is extensive and integrates a broad range of subject areas including technical, safety and leadership skills. It will be a resource for miners who work underground, as well as surface miners and office support personnel. The Alpha Academy is a 136,000 square foot campus that includes classroom space for up to 300 people; a 96,000 square foot lab that can simulate mine situations and conditions; labs for electrical, welding and maintenance skills training; the latest mine safety technologies, including air flow sensors and multi-gas hand held detectors; a command center for mine rescue and emergency preparedness training; and facilities and equipment for supervisory leadership skill training.
“Virtual reality simulators will allow participants to operate continuous mining machines, roof bolters, scoop and haul trucks and receive real-time feedback on their performance,” said Keith Hainer, senior vice president of Alpha’s Operations Performance Group.
Hainer gave members of the media a tour of the new facility on Thursday. Hainer said available classes at the new academy will include certified examiner, emergency medical technician training and certification, annual retraining, incident investigation and root cause analysis, risk management, apprentice electrician, electrical and mechanical skills training and understanding mining – day in the life of a miner. Crutchfield said that all employees in the Alpha organization will eventually go through the Academy, which will supplement the company’s existing mine safety training programs.
“The Alpha Academy is an extension of Alpha’s employee-driven Running Right safety philosophy, which focuses on eliminating at-risk behavior through employee observation and reporting,” Crutchfield said.
“Our ultimate aim is to further improve employee safety and regulatory performance so that we move closer to zero safety related incidents.” Joe Main, the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health, and head of the United States Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), also spoke at the event.
“After the Upper Big Branch mining disaster a change of culture in mine safety was necessary,” he said.
Mine safety training was part of an agreement between the company and the federal government, and Main said the new academy is a move in the right direction for the future of mine safety and health.
“This is a good thing for miners,” he said.
Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito was not at the event, but released a statement in support of the Running Right Leadership Academy, which she said will provide training opportunities for miners and rescue teams in an effort to prevent future tragedies.
“West Virginians remember the heartbreak that so many of our families and communities experienced in the wake of mine disasters; including those at Sago, Aracoma, and Upper Big Branch,” Capito said. “
“Our state has committed itself to preventing future tragedies in our mines, and tomorrow’s opening of the Running Right Leadership Academy is a critical step forward in improving mine safety. The Running Right Leadership Academy will provide training opportunities for miners and rescue teams, and will help spur the use and development of new safety technologies. I commend Alpha for its investment in the facility and hope that the Running Right Leadership Academy will serve as an industry-wide reminder that the safety of miners is a top priority.” Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin also released a statement.
“Coal runs deep in West Virginia. It employs thousands of our people and contributes to the economic development of our communities,” said Tomblin.
“We need to ensure that miners return home safely after every shift. The Running Right Leadership Academy marks a major advance in that goal. We are proud to host this world-class facility in our state and believe that it will become a beacon for safety throughout the industry.” The event was also attended by state and local elected officials, community leaders, employees and other business partners.
“They have been a great corporate neighbor and partner,” said Boone County Economic and Development Director Larry Lodato.
“They are an important part of our community and have been heavily involved in community service in our area. This facility is a great benefit not only to the coal mining industry, but also to the local community as well.”
“This is a great day for Boone County,” said Boone County Commission President Mickey Brown.
“To have this type of facility here is only going help boost the local economy as well as help our local fire departments and other first responders with training as well.” Alpha officials said in addition to training its own employees, its new academy would also be used by local fire departments and other in the mining industry.
Alpha Natural Resources is one of the largest and most regionally diversified coal suppliers in the United States. With mining operations in West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Wyoming, Alpha supplies metallurgical coal to the steel industry and thermal coal to generate power to customers on five continents, company officials said.