Annual Mining Symposium Coming to WJU

Annual Mining Symposium Coming to WJU

Following a year highlighted by the passage of landmark mine-safety legislation at both the state and federal levels, and 16 months removed from two catastrophic accidents that killed 14 West Virginia miners, the International Mining Health and Safety Symposium returns to the Ohio Valley later this month to build on the progress and momentum of initiatives designed to improve safety in the mining industry.

Hosted by the National Technology Transfer Center (NTTC) at Wheeling Jesuit University, the symposium will be held Thursday and Friday April 26-27. Featuring panel discussions and a technology exhibit, the event centers on five areas: underground mine communication technologies, breathing devices, mine seals, mine refuge chambers, and rescue worker procedures and training. Representatives of the coal industry, labor, government, academia, as well as technology innovators and equipment manufacturers are expected to attend. Among the scheduled speakers are West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin; Richard Stickler, assistant secretary of labor for the Mine Safety and Health Administration and Cecil Roberts, president of the United Mine Workers of America.

Other featured speakers are J. Davitt McAteer, vice president for sponsored programs at Wheeling Jesuit University; and Christo de Klerk of Mine Rescue Services Ltd., Republic of South Africa.

The symposium is a key component of Manchin’s overall strategy for continued mine-safety improvements. In his State of the State Address in January, Manchin cited the event, along with several proposals, as integral to meeting his goal to make West Virginia ”the safest mining state in the nation.”

West Virginia had already taken a big step toward this goal in January 2006 when the Legislature passed, and Manchin subsequently signed into law, mine-safety legislation requiring rapid response to mine accidents, electronic tracking equipment on miners working underground, and additional portable air stations/supplies in underground mines.

The Senate and House of Delegates unanimously passed the bill on the same day it was introduced to lawmakers.

In June, the federal Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act was signed into law by President Bush. This legislation requires coal mine operators to keep emergency oxygen supplies underground and puts additional checks on the reliability of emergency oxygen packs and miners’ ability to use them.

The inaugural symposium, held in 2006, was spurred by the Sago Mine explosion that killed 12 miners and the Aracoma Mine fire that left two dead.

”Last year’s symposium set the stage for significant health and safety improvements in coal mining,” said McAteer, who is also special mine-safety advisor to Manchin. ”This year we will bring together experts from all over the world to examine the progress we’ve made and discuss what else needs to be done.”

Panel discussions will take place at the university’s Troy Theater, and WesBanco Arena in downtown Wheeling will be the site of an exhibitor area featuring mine-safety innovations and product demonstrations.

”The Technology Exhibit Hall at WesBanco Arena will give technology developers and equipment manufacturers a great opportunity to display and demonstrate innovations and products that can potentially enhance the safety of our miners,” said Tom Coleman, the NTTC’s exhibit hall coordinator. The exhibit will be open from 2:30 to 7 p.m. April 26.

McAteer, who with Manchin toured CONSOL Energy’s McElroy Mine in February to assess underground communications technologies that facility is using, states that there has been progress in mine safety in the past year but acknowledges there’s room for improvement. ”In the months since the Sago disaster, much has changed and much more is in progress; we are not yet where we should be, where each and every underground mine has improved communications, improved self-contained self-rescuers, and access to safety chambers, but we are moving in the correct direction,” McAteer said. ”The symposium provides a great forum where experts from all sides can discuss ideas and see great new technologies that can hopefully make a significant impact on the safety and health of miners.”

The symposium presentations will be Webcast live starting with the welcome and opening remarks at 8:30 a.m. April 26, and concluding with closing remarks at noon on April 27. Webcasted panel discussions will address such topics as mine communication technologies and systems, and miner breathing devices. The Center for Educational Technologies® is producing the Webcast through its facilities on Wheeling Jesuit’s campus. The webcast can be viewed on or accessed through the Wheeling Jesuit University symposium Web site at

To register for the symposium, please visit the symposium Web site or call (304) 243-2513.

The symposium is sponsored by Gov. Manchin, Wheeling Jesuit University, U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, MSHA, the United Mine Workers of America, LAMAR Advertising, the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, Wheeling Convention and Visitors Bureau, Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce, Project BEST Inc. and the city of Wheeling.

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