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Upper Big Branch mine owner announces new mine safety foundation

miningA settlement reached with the federal government in the wake of the nation’s worst mine disaster has resulted in the establishment of a foundation aimed at improving mine health and safety.

Alpha Natural Resources has appointed appointed three directors to administer the foundation: Dr. Michael Karmis, Ph.D., Dr. David Wegman, M.D., M.Sc., and Dr. Keith Heasley, Ph.D.

Karmis,a professor of Mining and Minerals Engineering and the Director of the Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research (VCCER) at Virginia Tech, is an expert in rock mechanics and ground control, mining systems, and the sustainable development of energy and mineral resources.

Wegman is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Work Environment at the University of Massachusetts Lowell and Adjunct Professor at the Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Massachusetts Medical School. His epidemiologic research includes the study of acute and chronic occupational respiratory disease, occupational cancer risk and occupational musculoskeletal disorders, with special interests in the study of subjective outcomes as early indicators of health effects and in surveillance of occupational conditions and risks.

Heasley is a professor in the Department of Mining Engineering at West Virginia University, and is a licensed professional engineer and a registered professional engineer in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. His primary research interests are numerical modeling in rock mechanics, computer applications in mining, and multiple-seam mine design and ground control.

Alpha says the foundation will fund projects by qualified academic institutions, not-for-profit entities and individuals associated with those entities.

Under the settlement reached in December with the U.S. Department of Justice stemming from the 2010 Upper Big Branch (Upper Big Branch) mine disaster, Alpha must invest $48 million in the foundation and spend an additional $80 to improve safety at its mines.

Twenty-nine men were killed in the UBB tragedy.

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