Photo submitted by Jennifer McDaniels
Portal 31 Mine Exhibition is now also being used for training ground for coal miners.
Coal miners are once again heading back into the old mine works of Portal 31 in Lynch. Even though the historic mining operation ceased production years ago, Portal 31 has been transformed into a popular tourist attraction as a state-of-the-art mine exhibition tour, and most recently, it has also become training ground for coal miners.
Mine foremen with Black Mountain Resources have been undergoing safety training this past week at Portal 31 in conjunction with expanded training opportunities being offered by the Kentucky Coal Academy. Gary Whisman, newly hired Executive Director of the Kentucky Coal Academy (KCA), described the joint effort as a “milestone in mine training.”
“This is an exciting development in our program,” said Whisman. “It’s not all about classroom learning anymore with the Kentucky Coal Academy. We pride ourselves on our state-of-the-art mining simulators that greatly enhance our training program, and now we are proud to partner with the Portal 31 Mine Exhibition in Lynch to offer real, hands-on learning and experience. This is another tool our coal miners can utilize to be safer and more productive while on the job.”
Safety officials with Black Mountain Resources, a subsidiary of Alpha Natural Resources, said they were eager to partner with the Kentucky Coal Academy in making Portal 31 available for training activities. Taking place this past week at the portal was “Supervision Training,” which Southeast Kentucky Community & Technical College’s KCA Director Murrel Dixon described as “Added Mine Foreman Training” required by federal law. Mine Foremen conducted pre-shift exams of the mine, looking for potential hazards such as loose roofs, bad ventilation, and electrical problems.
“In the past, we’ve utilized our mock mine at the Harlan campus, but utilizing Portal 31 is much more realistic and beneficial,” Dixon said. “This is an actual mine, and it’s as real as it gets. We appreciate the folks at Portal 31 for scheduling these training sessions around their tourists’ visits. Portal 31 has become not only a valued site for tourists, but for our coal miners who are undergoing all the training they can possibly get to be safe and good at what they do.”
Safety officials with Black Mountain resources had plenty of praise for the Portal 31 training opportunity. Don Walker and Steve Countiss of the Black Mountain Resources Safety Department have been overseeing the mine foreman training at the Portal, along with Dixon and KCA instructor J.P. Campbell. The Black Mountain safety representatives said they were impressed with the caliber of training their men were undergoing at the portal.
“This is one of the best things we’ve done,” said Countiss. “This has been a highly productive partnership with the Kentucky Coal Academy as well as Portal 31. Our men have had good things to say about the training at the Portal, and said the opportunity to actually train at a mine site enables them to learn and retain more. The Kentucky Coal Academy is bringing mine training to a whole new level, and we’re excited to be in partnership with them when it comes to training our men and keeping them safe.”
Walker agreed that the actual mine site gave increased learning potential to the miners.
“This is reality underground,” Walker said. “The scenarios that are set up here in the portal are made more real to them because they get to experience it underground. That’s one of the many benefits of training with the Kentucky Coal Academy. They’re not just a classroom, textbook program. They are hands on, and they are exceptional at what they do.”
Whisman said he was appreciative of the partnering relationship with Black Mountain Resources. He noted that Black Mountain Resources Safety Director Roger Gilliam, along with Dixon and Campbell, had worked diligently in planning the Portal 31 training opportunity. Dixon said participants like the ones from Black Mountain Resources made all the planning worthwhile.
“These are a very dedicated group of men who work tirelessly for the safety of their miners,” Dixon said. “Safety knows no schedule. They are never off the clock as they strive to meet the safety needs of the industry. And the Kentucky Coal Academy works with these guys around the clock to meet their safety training needs.”
Whisman said he hopes other mining operations will utilize Portal 31 as part of their training requirements. Plans are also being made to use Portal 31 as training ground for mine rescue practice.
For more information about the programs and services offered by the Kentucky Coal Academy, log on to the KCA’s website at http://coalacademy.kctcs.edu or call (606) 589-3138.