MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia University today dedicated a state-of-the-art, simulated underground coal mine for training new and experienced miners. The new facility – 340 feet long by 110 feet wide and set up much like an actual underground mine – is located at the WVU Academy for Mine Training and Energy Technologies near Core. It will be used for training new miners and foremen, rescue teams, mine fire brigades and for other specialized training. James P. Clements, WVU president; Gene Cilento, dean of the College of Engineering and Mineral Resources; Jim Dean, director of the Department of Mining Extension; Chris Hamilton, executive vice president of the West Virginia Coal Association; and Michelle Figaretti, representative of Gov. Joe Manchin participated in a dedication ceremony at the facility.

Major funding for the $1 million facility came from the West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health Safety and Training and the West Virginia Division of Energy. Donations of equipment and materials came from Alpha Natural Resources, Consol Energy, HSC Industrial, Joy Continental Product Line, Murray Energy and Patriot Coal.

“West Virginia University, with significant help from our partners from the West Virginia Office of Miners Health Safety and Training, the West Virginia Division of Energy, and private industry, is pleased to provide outreach for coal miners in West Virginia and neighboring states. This type of collaboration is win-win. It can save lives and prevent injuries. We're very proud of this facility and, more importantly, the mission it serves,” Clements said.

With multiple entryways and crosscuts, the simulated mine is divided into passageways, chambers and rooms that resemble those in an actual mine. Hallways are filled with equipment and structures found in mines. It also includes a state-of-the art burn area for training mine rescue teams and fire brigades.

“The experience of an individual coming there for training will be as close as possible to an actual underground coal mine,” Dean said. “The capability to provide live fire training truly sets it apart from other such facilities.”

The Department of Mining Extension has provided training for the coal industry since 1913, and currently trains more than 5,000 new and experienced coal miners each year – from new miners seeking apprentice certification to experienced personnel seeking specialized training. The department provides a wide range of training programs for underground and surface mining – from new-miner training to SCSR (self-contained self-rescuer) training, mine rescue training, first responder training, fire brigade training, EMT certification for coal mining, foreman/fireboss training, electrical training and others. Experienced instructors provide on-site teaching throughout the major coal-producing region of West Virginia as well as in nearby Pennsylvania and Ohio.

In 2005, the department received a $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor that enabled it to open the training facility near Core. With these funds, and in partnership with the West Virginia Coal Association and others, WVU established the Academy for Mine Training and Energy Technologies. Along with the new simulated mine, the facility features classrooms, offices, and mining equipment, including several advanced mine training simulators that enable future coal miners to gain hands-on experience before ever entering a mine.

In 2008, the department developed a specially equipped mobile training unit for specialized training in the use of SCSRs, devices that assist miners in breathing in a fire or smoke emergency. Instructors take the trailer, the only one of its kind in the state, to mines throughout the region. It was used to train more than 2,000 miners in 2008.