West Virginia is making history when it comes to mine safety.Kanawha Eagle Coal Co. miners are the first men in the nation to use a simulated mine, filled with smoke, as part of their annual training course at the Walker Machinery Training Facility in Belle.
You could hear the mining activity. You could see what miners see when they’re underground. However, it was only a simulation constructed to give miners real life training in a life-altering situation.
The simulated mine filled with smoke, representing a mine fire. The men needed to find a safe way out, which meant locating a lifeline — a rope with cones attached, stringing from entrance to exit.
But the mine is filled with smoke, and the men couldn’t breathe on their own.
“They have to don their SCSR or self contained self rescuer and find their way out,” said Bob Ellis, Vice President of Operations for Kanawha Eagle Coal.
They call it the Last Chance Mine. Not only could this be the miners’ last chance to practice with the self rescuer, but this training could save their life.
“Certainly this is a fantastic opportunity for the miners, experiencing a live exercise in smoke and actually getting to wear and feel the sensations of the self contained self rescuer,” said Scott Shearer, President of CSE Corp.
But how authentic was it?
Foreman Mike Ferrell said it was almost as real as it gets.
“When I first went in I was disoriented and you run into some obstacles and you have to really think which way you have to go,” Ferrell explained.
It was an experience he said gives him confidence walking back into the real thing.
About 200 miners have been trained thus far in the simulated mine. Miners are required to go through the retraining each year.