AP News

Mine safety foundation to meet in W.Va. Oct. 10-11

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A coal mine health and safety panel created by Alpha Natural Resources Inc.'s settlement with the federal government after the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster will hold its first stakeholder meeting next month in Charleston.

The Alpha Foundation for the Improvement of Mine Safety and Health convenes Oct. 10-11 at the Embassy Suites, and the event is open to the public.

The panel includes professors Michael Karmis of Virginia Tech and Keith Heasley of West Virginia University, and professor emeritus David Wegman from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell. They want to gather input on what their priorities should be for $48 million that's available to the foundation.

Officials with the Mine Safety and Health Administration, National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, National Mining Association, United Mine Workers of America and United Steel Workers have been invited to participate, along with West Virginia officials.

The sessions will focus on four areas: disaster prevention and response; acute and chronic disease; human systems; and design and technology for prevention.

The foundation was created in April under a $210 million settlement with Virginia-based Alpha that spared the company criminal prosecution in the worst U.S. mine disaster in four decades. The agreement also requires Alpha to spend $80 million to improve safety at all of its mines with the latest technology.

The April 2010 explosion at Upper Big Branch near Montcoal killed 29 men and has spawned two criminal prosecutions so far.

The panel was chosen by Alpha and approved by the U.S. attorney's office for West Virginia's southern district.

Heasley's research interests include numerical modeling, computer applications in mining, multiple-seam mine design and ground control. Karmis has worked on communications and tracking systems, and Wegman, an epidemiologist, has expertise in occupational health and safety.

Karmis has previously said the foundation doesn't want to duplicate past efforts but instead focus on new initiatives.

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