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The Exponent Telegram in West Virginia published this editorial on Oct. 22 regarding efforts to improve mining safety:

West Virginia is known for its rich coal mining history. Unfortunately, part of that history includes horrific mine explosions and roof falls that have led to the deaths of hundreds over the past century.

Past tragedies in West Virginia are credited for spurring more state and federal oversight, which has greatly improved coal mining safety.

But make no mistake, it remains dangerous, especially in deep mines where the coal is about mined out.

We’re pleased to see the tremendous efforts and headway being made by the West Virginia University Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources’ Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering to improve safety conditions in mining operations that will transfer well into coal mining operations in West Virginia and other states.

Joining with Alpha Foundation for the Improvement of Mine Safety and Health, a private agency dedicated to funding safety improvement projects, professors Ihsan Berk Tulu, Jason Gross, Yu Gu and Guilherme Pereira continue their work to use robots and drones to prevent roof collapses and falling debris in mines.

The Alpha Foundation recently supplied a $750,000 grant, which will advance those efforts significantly.

As Tulo explained to NCWV Media’s Conor Griffith, the team uses a combination of remote vehicles that consist of an unmanned aerial vehicle attached to an unmanned ground vehicle, which in turn provides high-resolution, 3-D maps for assessment of pillar and roof damage.

“Ultimately, this project will develop an early warning system that will notify the mine engineers for elevated hazardous conditions in underground stone mines,” Tulu said.

Tulo said “fall of ground”-related accidents are one of the leading causes of injuries. These occur when part of the roof or a pillar collapses. While the work being done is currently focused on mines involving stone work, it is easily transferrable to all types of mining operations.

“The autonomous robotic early warning system for monitoring stone mines will enable a rapid response to detected degradations in pillar and roof stability. Successful development and deployment of this system is expected to reduce injuries of underground stone mine workers,” Tulu said.

“While the initial problem is associated with pillar stability and design, the techniques developed in this research would be easily adaptable to the underground coal and metal/nonmetal mining sectors. The autonomous robots’ mapping ability would also be adaptable to facilitate search and rescue efforts in case of an accident,” Tulu said.

Efforts like these, with academic institutions teaming with private companies or foundations to develop new technology in a more rapid pace, are excellent — the types of work we’ve come to expect from WVU, which continues its rapid ascent in the world of research and development.

“Miners’ safety is a No. 1 priority in the mining industry,” said Vladislav Kecojevic, the Robert E. Murray chair and professor of mining engineering. “Research grants such as this one from the Alpha Foundation will allow our WVU engineers to leverage state-of-the-art technology into an underground environment and contribute toward an ultimate goal of zero fatal- and non-fatal injuries in our nation’s mines.”

We applaud the efforts of these WVU professors, their associates and Alpha Foundation for their key investment. Working together, we are confident mining safety will be boosted by further use of technology developed through this collaboration.

Training program will boost workforceThe News-Enterprise in Elizabethtown, Kentucky published this editorial on Oct. 18:

When the Kentucky Community and Technical College System began its Workforce Solutions program in 2000, it picked a very appropriate name.

One of the leading employment training efforts in the state, Workforce Solutions has served more than 3 million Kentucky residents. It’s success perhaps is defined by the objective so clearly stated by its name.

The latest example of this successful search for answers is parked on the Elizabethtown Community and Technical College campus. The mobile training unit, a bus equipped for on-site training, is an innovative answer to industrial and business needs.

This external training effort can accommodate up to 16 staffers and the classroom literally can be placed at a business’s doorstep.

The training can be tailored to specific technical skills or address general information areas critical to operational success such as organizational leadership and computer skills. Having a skilled and effective workforce is vital to industrial expansion and commercial development. This is yet another way ECTC and KCTCS has stepped forward to help meet the challenge.

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