Importance of research

Few major decisions in life are made without research. The future of our world depends on someone, or many someones, to do perform due diligence on an action and following through on hypotheses to determine how to best tackle something.

It is no different for mining. Consider this: had it not been for many before us conducting research, today’s mines would not look like they do. No ground control technology, proximity detection and ventilation designs to save lives, no high-yield material handling systems to boost efficiencies, no environmentally friendly processing technologies, and certainly no equipment that lines fleets today: automated, battery-electric, ergonomic and with cleaner, more effective engines riding atop safer, steadier tires. Truth be told, we could still consider horses and wagons to be part of our conveying systems.

Much of our industry’s research, at least in the U.S., is tasked to the National Institutes for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), part of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) – giving it access to federal funding and support that our entire industry depends on to be safer, healthier, more efficient and do its best work.

While the agency has research campuses in the states of Pennsylvania and Washington, NIOSH also has depended on its “in-the-field” capabilities and used a site in northern Appalachia, Lake Lynn, for many of those projects. If it needed to be tested within an actual mine, it was there in the form of a former limestone operation, and it also had a fire-testing facility. 

However, for more than a decade now, Lake Lynn has not been an option for NIOSH. It exited the property in 2012 and immediately went on the hunt for a new space. In early March, the research group got its wish.

The site, which has not been identified with a formal name, will be located in the southern town of Mace, east of Charleston, West Virginia. Funding for its design and construction are already secured through the fiscal year 2023 omnibus appropriations package.

With the future of miner safety and health being so critical to our industry, the site needs to be right for the agency. Senator Joe Manchin confirmed it is; in fact, Mace is the only location in the United States that meets the specific geologic criteria that will allow researchers to accommodate full-scale testing to continue its vital work.

The total federal investment to construct the facility is an estimated $94 million and, once fully operational, will house 12 full-time employees.

Construction of the new facility is expected to take five years after a design phase of one year.

NAM, bringing that theme of research full circle, will be following the movements of this project closely and sharing it with readers. We congratulate the entire mining community on the securing of a new asset to keep us ahead of the technological curve and, even more importantly, safer than ever.

Donna Schmidt
Editor, North American Mining magazine
(740) 624-4642
[email protected]

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