EYEWITNESS LOCAL NEWSATTACK ON COAL, PART 3
from Eyewitness News Online
Using Technology And Safety Programs To Make Mining Safer and Cleaner
Reported by: Rick Lord
Web Producer: Rick Lord
Also Contributing: Troy Morgan
Reported: May. 2, 2012 11:27 PM EDT
Updated: May. 3, 2012 4:15 PM EDT
, West Virginia
Most in the coal industry have come to a realization that alternative sources of energy are not only here to stay, but they are cleaner, and they definitely have the backing of the current Administration. So coal companies say they are willing to do what they need to do, to keep their business... in business...
"There has to be a balance. obviously, we're in an extractive industry" says Rick Nida with Alpha Natural Resources. "We take things from the ground, so we have to do that in an environmentally safe manner. We like to say that we leave the land in at least as good a shape as we found it. in many instances we actually improve the usage so communities can have places for roads and schools and industrial development."
In Grafton, the Tygart mine, owned by Arch Coal, is still under construction. They plan to churn out millions of tons of metallurgical coal and they plan to do it responsibly.
"At the end of the day," says project General Manager Scott Boylen, "we are gonna be a good steward of the land, and at the same time, manage this mine in a manner that takes advantage of the resource, and we can move forward."
The land surrounding the mine is sort of shaped like a cup, which allows it to be self-containing. No water will seep out or run off. The hope is that this greenfield project can pave the way for future operations. And while many point to technology like carbon-capture as a way to make coal mining cleaner, Arch is also using technology to make mining safer. A new wireless tracking system allows a dispatcher to keep tabs on everyone's exact location in the mine at all times and, with a click of a mouse, he can disable anything inside the mine that might be putting miners at risk. Machinery in the mines can detect if a miner is in an unsafe position, and will automatically shut off. A vertical conveyer belt helps mine coal faster and safer while the portals and shafts are still being dug-out. It's all part of a commitment to safety at Arch, one they call the shield process.
"It's a mindset," explains Ronald Suder. "If you go in with the mindset of doing your job and doing it safely and watching out for each other, then you can do it safely. The thing about it is, in the mines, historically, we've always been reactive. By studying behaviors and watching those we become proactive."
It's somthing they've been doing for a decade at Alpha Natural Resources. Their program is called Running Right.
"Well, i think i've been here a long time and i've seen a lot of things, " says miner Claytus O'Dell at the Grassy Creek mine. "And this program is one that i believe can actually change lives."
O'dell says he has seen a dramatic change in behavior at the Grassy Creek Mine in Nicholas County. Here, as at every Alpha operation, miners fill out cards every day, detailing what they've seen in the mines that could lead to unsafe conditions.
"We've been now 186 days without even a reportable accident, which is phenomenal considering we have 104 men employed here," adds O'Dell.
Mark DeLung, who mines coal at Alpha's Slab Camp operation near Cedar Grove, echoes O'Dell's sentiment about the success of the program.
"The Running Right process is fantastic. It's a great way to manage your people and your coal mines," says DeLung. We want to run right. we want to do everything the agencies require us to do. We're a low violation, high production coal mine with a good group of men and we've had zero accidents the entire year."
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