The Utah State Board of Regents has just approved a new Center for Mining Safety and Health Excellence at the University of Utah. The formation of the center goes back to 2008 after the fatal Crandall Canyon accident in eastern Utah. Six miners and three rescue workers were killed in the 2007 disaster. Within a year, the Utah Mine Safety Commission under former Governor John Huntsman Jr. recommended creating an endowed chair in mine safety. Associate professor Tom Hethmon is the director of the new center at the U and is the founding chair. He says managing safety and health is a subtle issue.
“They don't necessarily get that training in engineering school. So this is an attempt to inoculate the class of engineers that are coming out now with that knowledge so they get in those positions, they'll be better prepared to deal with it,” he says.
Funding of more than $1.5 million for the endowed chair was spearheaded by Consol Energy Inc. and Barrick Goldstrike Mines Inc. and other companies and individuals. Dr. Mike Nelson is chair of the U’s Department of Mining Engineering and associate director of the new center. He says there’s no denying the economy of risk management is a driving force.
“Those who are most successful are those who manage their risk most successfully, whether it's risks related to safety or the environment or government relations. They understand that all of these things come together to make for a successful business,” he says.
University of Utah President David Pershing says the center will display the university’s abilities to innovate and collaborate to help solve problems that affect people working in the mining industry.