INA, Ill. – The Rend Lake College Foundation has experienced some exciting additions to its Board of Directors lately. One of those is a heavy hitter in not only the local coal industry, but the world over.
Steve Rowland of Christopher joined the board in the summer. Rowland most recently worked with Mike Tracey at White Oak Resources in Hamilton County. After 42 years of setting up and shaping up millions of dollars in coal operations across the globe, this veteran is now taking a break ... for now. He is semi-retired and doing some consulting, he said.
Rowland’s only time spent actually mining coal was working summers at Old Ben Coal Mine while enrolled at the Missouri School of Mines in Rolla – now Missouri School of Science and Technology. Mining engineering wasn’t even his original career path. But after graduating with an engineering degree in that discipline in 1970, the future looked bright and there was no looking back.
Fresh out of college, Rowland worked in various management positions for Old Ben, Freeman United and was one of the first hired at Kerr-McGee where he served as general manager until 1998. He then worked for Shell Oil to develop Australia’s largest underground coal mine in terms of equipment and size, and the continent’s top producing mine for three years straight.
He returned home to a consultant position before heading back to Australia in 2004 as part of Broken Hill Proprietary’s carbon steel division where he helped it break ground on a mine that is still producing for a global market. BHP is the largest metallurgical coal producer in the world. After working with BHP, Rowland returned to the U.S. again and started working with White Oak.
Rowland is a firm believer in lifelong learning. Nearly two decades after graduating with his engineering degree, he completed the Kellogg Graduate School of Management’s executive development program at Northwestern University.
“I don’t think you ever stop learning,” he said. “With remarkable advancements being made all the time, you don’t want to turn your back on learning in this industry.”
His valuable knowledge of mining on a global scale makes Rowland a significant addition to the Board of Directors for the RLC Foundation. He said he is starting to see signs that the market is coming back for producers in the Illinois Coal Basin, which is the largest single bituminous coal reserve in the U.S.
“Rend Lake College Foundation is honored to have someone of Steve Rowland’s background and strong roots in Southern Illinois,” said RLCF CEO Pat Kern. “His entrenchment and knowledge in the coal mining industry will only benefit Rend Lake College’s direction in providing the area’s coal mining training. He also brings additional representation on the RLC Foundation Board from the Christopher area.”
“I’ve been all over,” Rowland said. “I really wasn’t ever that close [to RLC] since Rolla was where I went to school and then Northwestern. I’m really impressed with [RLC and its Foundation]. With the Foundation coming in with scholarships and the mining department working closely with them, I think there is a great future there.”
His advice to mining technology students at RLC is to think globally.
“Look around at what you are and what you can do,” he said. “Whether it’s safety or something else. BHP, for example, is a firm believer that once you are management, you are always management. The opportunity is there for you. Look beyond southern Illinois, the state of Illinois or the U.S. There are opportunities everywhere, whether its southern Illinois, South America, South Africa or Indonesia. There are tons of opportunities for someone who is willing to put forth some effort.”
Steve Rowland lives just south of Christopher with his wife, Vicki.