Coal country has a new mine training facility in Harrisburg. The long-awaiting Simulated Mine Training Facility at Southeastern Illinois College (SIC) is completed and ready for training.
SIC and coal mine training partner, Illinois Eastern Community Colleges (IECC), will hold a ribbon cutting for the grand opening of the facility on Wednesday, May 31 at 11:30a.m. The community is invited to attend and tour the new facility. Light refreshments will be served.
“This new building is set up to meet the needs of area mines for underground safety training. It is set up like a continuous miner section with giant columns, simulated smoke and a ventilation system that simulates the tunnels of the coal mines,” said Mike Thomas, Dean of Workforce Education at IECC.
The facility includes a separate control room with monitors and infrared and thermal imaging cameras to monitor what goes on inside the facility during the training operations, ensuring the safety of all involved.
The colleges broke ground for the facility in July 2014, expecting a completed facility by that fall. However, when state funding hit a standstill during the early days of the IL budget stand-off, the facility was placed on hold, despite the fact that the funds had already been sent and work had begun. With help from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and local lawmakers, the college got word in late 2016 that work could continue.
The funding initially came from a state investment program meant to help make the coal industry more competitive — a $220,000 Coal Competitiveness Grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Development (DCEO), along with an additional $15,000 from each of the colleges.
“This is something that is vitally needed to this area. The Illinois basin is truly growing and there is a huge need for this, especially here in coal country,” said Rep. Brandon Phelps during the groundbreaking ceremony in 2014.
More than 1,000 miners go through mine training programs at SIC each year, between 300 and 500 of them being new to coal mining.
Lori Cox, Associate Dean of Workforce & Community Education at SIC, noted that the new facility will put Southeastern Illinois College in standing to be an eligible location for the national mine safety and rescue competition in upcoming years.
“We look forward to using the facility as part of our yearly Mine Rescue and Skills competition that brings in competitors from all over the region and as far away as West Virginia,” said Cox. “We are excited to offer this type of training to our region with the latest technology to present safe scenarios for mine rescue operations to coal mines.”
The facility is housed on the north side of campus adjacent to the burn tunnel and the fire science outdoor classroom, also used for coal mine training.
Dozens of coal miners will be in Harrisburg June 13 and 14 for the annual mine safety and rescue training event. Instead of doing many of these drills outside per usual, these miners will now be able to use the indoor coal mine simulator, providing more realistic training conditions. This type of training can be critical to keeping themselves and coworkers safe during an underground emergency.
For information on coal mining technology classes or the upcoming mine safety and rescue training event, visit www.sic.edu/coal or call 618-252-5400 x2360.