INA, Ill. (Sept. 27, 2012) – Rend Lake College was recognized among the nation’s leaders in mine safety training Wednesday when the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration announced the latest round of Brookwood-Sago grants.
RLC has been awarded $73,293 to provide mine emergency response and rescue skills training for the region’s mine rescue teams. The training will take place at the RLC Coal Mining Training Center, located on the main campus in Ina.
President Terry Wilkerson said it was a team effort by those at the college to secure the grant.
“We are one of seven in the U.S. to get part of this $1.25 million through the Brookwood-Sago program,” said Wilkerson. “That’s quite an achievement for the college, area coal leaders who call on us to provide their safety training, and the staff here. I know they worked hard to bring this grant to southern Illinois and I thank the Department of Labor for recognizing the value of our proposal.”
“We can never over-emphasize the importance of training, especially in the area of mine emergency response,” Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health, stated in a release Wednesday. “These grants will enable organizations that are dedicated to mine safety to develop programs that may one day save miners’ lives.”
Training grants are awarded for a 12-month performance period, and applicants must be states or nonprofit entities, according to an MSHA release. The grants program was established through a provision in the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act of 2006, the release states. The grants were named in remembrance of 13 men who died in two explosions at the Jim Walter Resources Inc. No. 5 Mine in Brookwood, Ala., in 2001, and 12 men who died in an explosion at the Sago Mine in Tallsmanville, W.Va., in 2006.
RLC Applied Science and Advanced Technology Division Chair Chris Nielsen said this isn’t the first time the mining technology at RLC has been awarded through the Brookwood-Sago program, which is aimed at developing and implementing training and related materials for mine emergency preparedness, and prevention of accidents in underground mines.
“In September of 2009 we received $50,000,” said Nielsen. “At that time, our program was being revitalized on campus in response to area coal development and the Brookwood-Sago funding was primarily targeted at building our mine safety curriculum.”
Nielsen said the curriculum is in place and this round of funding will be used to put it to work.
“This funding will be used to provide training for fire brigade and mine rescue teams. Mine fire fighting and mine rescue is very rigorous and dangerous. Rescue teams must deal with darkness, smoke, heat – a very inhospitable environment. And at the same time, they must perform the functions of a fire department with hoses, water supply, and breathing apparatuses. Our training program allows coal companies to put their rescue personnel into life-like scenarios without exposing them to undue risk.”
Ronnie Rains, an instructor in RLC’s program and a captain at West Frankfort Fire Department, said the training schedule is packed and coal mine fire brigade teams are lined up to train.
“We do a two-day training,” said Rains. “Some of the mines may have around 50 people on their fire brigade team, so they choose to send 10 team members at a time. In the coal mine training, we do classroom work in the morning and hands-on training in the afternoon. It seems like every month we are getting more and more signing up and the program is definitely progressing nicely.”
RLC’s mining technology program can be found online at www.rlc.edu/asat.
Other Brookwood-Sago mine safety grant recipients include:
- Colorado School of Mines (Golden, Colo.) - $147,184 for mine rescue training.
- University of Arizona (Tucson) - $167,191 for testing computer software simulations for mine emergency preparedness at five underground mines in New Mexico, Utah and Colorado.
- Bevill State College (Sumiton, Ala.) - $148,799 to develop a “day in the life” educational video about a mine examiner.
- Marshall University (Huntington, W.Va.) - $96,306 to develop a computer program that performs ventilation network planning calculations as well as simulates a mine’s ventilation system.
- Pennsylvania State University (University Park, Penn.) - $216,358 renewal for a fiscal year 2011 grant for implementing a web-based training program for hiring, training and recruiting mine emergency prevention instructors.
- United Mine Workers of America Career Centers Inc., (Washington, Pa.) - $224,111 to develop miner training on mine map reading, symbol recognition, escapeways and basic mine ventilation.
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