University of Utah mining engineering students with giant mining equipment at Rio TintoUtah Kennecott Copperrsquos Bingham Canyon Mine on the southwest edge of the Salt Lake Valley The university is establishing a new Center for Mining Safety and Health Excellence to help people who depend on the mining industry Mike Nelson, University of Utah

University of Utah mining engineering students with giant mining equipment at Rio Tinto-Utah Kennecott Copper’s Bingham Canyon Mine on the southwest edge of the Salt Lake Valley. The university is establishing a new Center for Mining Safety and Health Excellence to help people who depend on the mining industry.

A Catalyst for Change: University of Utah Unveils New Mine Safety Center

The University of Utah has created a new Center for Mining Safety and Health Excellence in efforts to improve mining safety and health management standards and performance.

With a global mission to improve mining safety and health management standards and performance through advocacy, education, research and consultation, the University of Utah has created a new Center for Mining Safety and Health Excellence.

The Center for Mining Safety and Health Excellence will work to fulfill its mission by working with industry, government, nongovernmental organizations and labor representatives. It will be housed in the university’s Department of Mining Engineering within the College of Mines and Earth Sciences.

“The center will display the university’s abilities to innovate, collaborate and help solve real, challenging problems that have a profound effect on people working in the mining industry, their communities and economies that rely on mining,” said University of Utah President David Pershing.

While the center’s scope will include the global mining community, it will maintain a primary focus on Utah, where the mining industry has played an important historical role in the state’s development and continues to play a key role in the state’s economy. 

“The diversity of Utah’s economy is mirrored by its mining industry. It reflects a wide variety of commodities and critical materials used in medical, computer and aerospace technologies; power generation; and chemical engineering, among many other applications,” said Francis Brown, dean of the College of Mines and Earth Sciences.

The Crandall Canyon Connection

The new center follows the creation of the Western Mining Presidential Endowed Chair in Mine Safety, which resides in the center and currently is occupied by Associate Professor Tom Hethmon, a mining industry safety and health expert. Hethmon also directs the new center.

The endowed chair resulted from a recommendation of former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.’s Utah Mine Safety Commission following Utah’s 2007 Crandall Canyon disaster, which killed six miners and three rescue workers.

The center will work with the Utah Mine Safety Commission to assist with the ongoing implementation of recommendations from the Crandall Canyon mine disaster. Several mine safety research projects are also being developed, with international outreach activities expected as early as Fall 2012.

“As a global source of mining engineers since 1896, we knew bringing additional expertise into our department would help improve the safety education of our undergraduate and graduate mining engineering students, who often progress to position of authority in major mining companies,” said Mike Nelson, chair of the Department of Mining Engineering as associate director of the new center.

“But that professional development process can take years, and everyone associated with the industry wants to minimize mining-related illness, injuries and fatalities now,” Nelson added. “I hope that the center can serve as a catalyst for change. We will make a difference, but this must be a partnership among many stakeholders.”

The center already has drawn the attention of mining companies and trade associations, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and countries with developing mining industries.

Funding of more than $1.5 million for the endowed chair was spearheaded by Consol Energy Inc. and Barrick Goldstrike Mines Inc. and supported by a number of companies and individuals including Peabody Energy Corp., Kennecott Utah Copper and Arch Coal, Inc., among others.

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