Mine Health and Safety Academy

Beckley Post-Herald
August 18, 1976

Coal Miners Not Expendable, Kleppe Says At Dedication

Staff Writer

"In a mine in America, everything else may be expendable - our miners are not," said U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Thomas S. Kleppe at the dedication ceremony Tuesday of the Mining Enforcement and Safety Administration's Mine Health and Safety Academy on the Airport Road.

Speaking in the academy's gymnasium, the secretary of the Interior Department, which controls MESA, said "the safety of miners is what the academy is all about," despite its $20.6 million price tag.

"If supplying the energy needs of America is one of the greatest challenges of the future, then where could America possibly invest its money more wisely than in the protection of the health and safety of the men who will do so much to supply that energy? There is no finer investment," he told the hundreds of visitors.

Good mining is safe mining, Kleppe continued, and safe mining begins with education and training for all connected with the mining industry.

"This academy will educate and train inspectors as its first function. But through the seminar program, through the continuing education program, through all the other programs that will be devised as the academy progresses, there will be an enormous spread of this education and training throughout the mining industry," the secretary remarked.

Kleppe, who left the academy midway through the ceremony in order to fly to the Republican National Convention in Kansas City, Kan., pointed out before leaving around 2:30 p.m. that in less than two hours, the day shift in the mines in the Appalachian coal fields would be going home, "tired, because mining is hard, physical labor."

"If we could take all those miners on a magic carpet here to see this academy today," he said, "we would say to them: We have built this academy as a monument to you, because we care. Because of it, and with God's help, you and other miners will go home to your families in the future. You may be tired. But it is the determination of the American people that you will go home, that you will be healthy, that you will be safe."

In his remarks at the dedication ceremony, the Interior Department secretary also paid tribute to U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W. Va., for his efforts to have Congress appropriate money for the new facility, and the Raleigh County Airport Authority and the Raleigh County Commission for donating the 70-acre site for the facility.

Senator Byrd, who was the keynote speaker at the dedication, told the audience that coal has been and continues to be the backbone of the West Virginia economy.

"Our coal deposits in American will meet our energy needs for several centuries," the senator said. "It is obvious the future of coal is bright, but mining the coal requires the labor of men."

Mining, the Senate majority whip said, has always been a dangerous occupation. West Virginia's history, he added, is filled with mining disasters.

"The men who work in the mines must be willing to live with the stark realities of life," said the senator. "Thousands of miners are injured and scores lose their lives in this industry. This means the deaths of fathers and husbands."

"It is for this reason," Byrd continued, "that I began some years ago to work for the establishment of this mine health and safety academy through my position as chairman of the Subcommittee for Interior Appropriations. This unique and magnificent facility is something that will not only help save lives, but it will reassure the families of the men who work in the mines."

While the people of Beckley can take pride in the Academy, Byrd said, it will not only benefit southern West Virginia, but the whole country and even the world. "Miners from all over the world," said the senator, "will be coming to Beckley in an attempt to cut down on the injuries and deaths that have so long tainted the miners' lives."

Also making brief remarks at the dedication was Robert E. Barrett, administrator of the Mine Enforcement and Safety Administration. Said Barrett, before introducing special guest[s] (among them United Mine Workers of America President Arnold Miller), "I would hope that someday when a miner leaves for work, he can feel reasonably sure that he will be as safe as his neighbors. The academy will be dedicated to that goal."

Rep. Ken Hechler, D-W. Va., who did not speak at the dedication but had remarks following the event, said that "the dedication of this academy symbolized the determination of the nation that in the coal mining industry the first priority must be placed on the health and safety of its most precious resource - the coal miner."

Hechler said that at the ground breaking ceremony of the academy several years ago, it rained "dogs and cats." But on Tuesday, "the sun was shining in a clear sky which portends a bright future for this magnificent new facility."

Hechler continued, "Now that the Mine Health and Safety Academy is in operation, we must concentrate on improving mine safety methods. Last week, at the Underground Coal Gasification Symposium at the Energy Research Center in Morgantown, I stressed the importance of developing synthetic natural gas from coal while in place, which will improve the safety record in the coal mining industry."

"But above all," the congressman said, "there must be strict enforcement of the mine safety laws and regulations, along with an expansion of the type of training afforded by the new Mine Health and Safety Academy."

Also on the program as master of ceremonies was Dr. Michael G. Zabetakis, academy superintendent, who presented Senator Byrd a plaque of appreciation at the end of the ceremony. Zabetakis also informed the senator that "the heart of the academy - the classroom wing," has been officially named the Robert C. Byrd Classroom Wing.

The new academy, which was constructed over a period of four years, consists of an administration section, academic wing, dormitory wing, mining equipment shop, equipment storage section and recreation section.


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