A new investment in Alabama’s coal mines is impacting industries, communities and individuals across the state.
The global demand for Alabama’s high-quality metallurgical (met) coal, a special type of coal used to make steel, is creating a need for more underground coal miners according the the Alabama Coal Association. In an effort to fill these positions the company has partnered with Bevill State Community College in Jasper, Ala. to offer prospective employees a new miner training class.
“Helping new miners understand the industry through programs like the one being offered at Bevill State is a key to future success, but it’s something that affects not only the miners completing the program,” Alabama Coal Association President Patrick Cagle said in a press release. “The cooperation between one of our Alabama mining companies and higher education to ensure miners are well-trained is a testament to the commitment both have to the importance of safe mining practices and the future of the Alabama coal industry.”
This week, 15 new miners completed the four-week underground safety course at the college and began working in the Warrior Met Coal mines on Friday.
Miners are required to complete 40 hours of training before heading underground in order to comply with federal regulations. But the 15 new miners have 160 hours of safety and practice task training under their belt. “We help them to understand how to lay track, how to hang high voltage cable and how to put pipe together as well as power center operation, belt structure assembly, rock dusting and how to operate fire equipment,” Ken Russell, director of workforce solutions at Bevill State said.
“This four-week program is an excellent way for prospective employees to get hands on experience as they learn what a career in underground mining entails,” Cagle continued. “Technology has fundamentally changed underground mining. It’s hard to understand how advanced these operations have become until you’ve seen it first-hand.”
Each new mining job offers an average salary of $85,000 a year, and while enrolled in the program, miners earned a $600 per week stipend.
But the economic impact of the Alabama coal industry goes far beyond the Warrior Met mines Cagle noted. The coal then travels by barge or train to the Port of Mobile. There, it’s loaded on to export vessels and transported to international steel makers.
In May, Warrior Met Coal announced the competition of a new portal facility on the company’s No. 7 mine. After $19 million and three years of work to open the new mine the company now employs over 1,300 people and hopes to add more in the coming years.
“It provides employment for those involved in the transportation industry,” Cagle said. “The export of Alabama met coal helps offset this country’s growing trade imbalance. The coal terminal accounts for more than half of the revenue generated by operations at the Port of Mobile, further illustrating the impact of Alabama coal on the economy.”