INA, Ill. - A state grant to Rend Lake College will be used to improve safety in the Illinois coal mining industry.
The $285,000 grant for a cutting-edge mine rescue and safety training facility will be a big boost to the new Coal Mine Training Center and coal mining technology program at RLC.
Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity Office of Mines and Minerals Director Joe Angleton and Office of Coal Development Bureau Chief Bill Hoback joined RLC President Charley D. Holstein, the RLC Board of Trustees, the RLC Foundation Board of Directors and other college officials at the center's grand opening, held in conjunction with the Illinois Mining Institute's annual meeting and Illinois Mine Rescue Association's state contest, Tuesday, Aug. 11, on the college campus in Ina, Ill. A crowd of more than 200 community members, local officials, coal industry leaders and state representatives were reportedly on hand for the grant announcement and public open house at the 20,000 square-feet, state-of-the-art Coal Mine Training Center at RLC.
The grant provides funding for the college to design, engineer and construct the new facility. Roughly 10 percent of the grant will be used for design and planning, about 30 percent for procuring equipment, and 60 percent for materials and construction.
"This new capability strengthens our position as a regional leader in mine rescue safety training," said RLC President Charley D. Holstein.
RLC will hire an approved architect or civil engineer and consult regularly with local representatives of the Office of Mines and Minerals, and Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). The college will also provide monthly progress reports about the project and a final report to the DCEO.
The future mine safety and rescue training facility at Rend Lake College is aimed at putting Illinois at the top of the list for safest mining states across the country.
DCEO Director Warren Ribley said, “The investments made here will be returned for many years to come. As we see an increase in coal mining activity in Southern Illinois, it becomes even more critical that we continue to strive to have the safest coal mines in the United States, along with the best trained, most productive mining workforce possible.”
Angleton said the new CMTC is a center that is going to be at the center of coal miner training.
“We had to go to Beckley ... West Virginia to find anything similar to what we are going to have here.”
He talked about mines coming online in the area that are going to bring good paying jobs that will stimulate the local economy, and support the growth and viability of other industries.
“Coal is very, very important when you look at what it does to the economy,” he added. “... It is something that is instrumental in regards to making us a very, very viable area and making us a strong Southern Illinois. We went through some very hard times. For the first time in my life, there’s not a [operating] coal mine in Franklin County. We are going to see it come back. We are going to see a major comeback.”
A $1.07 million grant awarded to the college in 2008 went toward the Coal Mine Training Center. The facility, located on the west side of campus, houses a large open shop area, simulated coal mine and large classrooms, in addition to faculty and staff offices.