Mining safety just got an additional boost from Alpha Natural Resources which started up the Alpha Foundation for the Improvement of Mine Safety and Health.
The non-profit organization will seek to improve mine health and safety by funding academic and nonprofit research projects. Alpha contributed $48 million to the foundation.
“The safety of our employees is the highest value of our company, and mine safety and health is imperative to the success of our industry,” said Alpha Chief Executive Kevin Crutchfield. “We are proud to establish and fund the Alpha Foundation and also appoint three leading experts to advance its objectives. This presents a tremendous opportunity to drive the latest developments and innovation in mine safety and health to the benefit of miners around the world.”
The foundation is part of Alpha Natural Resources’ non-prosecution agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office of Southern West Virginia from Dec. 6. The agreement followed the Upper Big Branch explosion in Raleigh County, WV, where 29 coal miners died.
The settlement totaled $209 million, of which $80 million was to go to directly improve mine safety at all Alpha underground mines.
The agreement included settlements for the miners’ families and does not prevent the prosecution of individuals within Massey Energy, the company that owned the mine at the time of the explosion. Alpha acquired Massey months after the explosion.
The foundation appointed three directors to administer the foundation: Dr. Keith A. Heasley of West Virginia University’s College of Engineering and Mineral Resources; Dr. David H. Wegman, emeritus professor of work environment at the University of Massachusetts Lowell; and Dr. Michael E. Karmis, professor and director of the Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research at Virginia Tech.
The foundation is to operate independently of the U.S. Attorney’s office or Alpha Natural Resources.
“The research and development component of our agreement with Alpha holds the promise of breakthroughs that will transform mine safety in the coming decades,” said U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin. “The Foundation will jumpstart innovation and put brilliant minds to work on the risks that coal miners face. We look forward to a future in which coal mining is as safe as any other occupation.”