"This presents a tremendous opportunity to drive the latest developments and innovation in mine safety and health to the benefit of miners around the world," Alpha CEO Kevin Crutchfield said in a statement.
Five years ago, a National Academy study reported that far too few federal research dollars in the energy arena were spent on projects aimed at keeping coal miners safe and healthy. That study recommended an increase from $25 million to $35 million a year in federal spending on mine safety research.
"Health and safety research and development should be expanded to anticipate increased hazards in future coal mines," the study said. "These R&D efforts should emphasize improved methane control, improved mine ventilation, improved roof control, reduced repetitive and traumatic injuries, reduced respiratory diseases, improved escape and rescue procedures, improved communications systems, and research to reduce the risk of explosions and fires."
Heasley, a WVU mining engineering professor, said the panel is likely to consider funding proposals that examine both safety problems that cause major disasters and everyday issues that lead to more common injuries.
"In a lot of situations, if you handle the everyday issues -- dust, ground control -- you'll handle the issues that cause disasters too," Heasley said.
Karmis said the panel will seek competitive proposals from researchers around the country and that the available money should fund the program for about 10 years.
"This is a significant amount of money to stimulate some good research," Karmis said.
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.