CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A mine health and safety panel that grew out of Alpha Natural Resources' settlement with federal prosecutors over the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster aims to focus on big projects, not incremental ones.
The Alpha Foundation for the Improvement of Mine Safety and Health convened for the first time Wednesday in Charleston to discuss how to set priorities for the $48 million it has to spend. President Michael Karmis, a Virginia Tech professor, said he wants to fill in gaps and overcome barriers, not duplicate existing work.
The State Journal says the foundation plans to make formal recommendations by June 2013.
To succeed, it will have to look at the leading causes of death in the nation's mines, said Mine Safety and Health Administration chief Joe Main.
"In the past -- the recent past -- our country has had to look at progress in other countries to solve some of our own problems,'' he said.
Potential areas for research include black lung disease, technology to prevent explosive buildups of gas and dust, better mine communication systems and better mine-rescue capabilities.
Bruce Watzman of the National Mining Association urged the foundation to also consider "soft research,'' such as including safety and health management systems, risk management, leadership and culture.