Bristol, Va.,-based Alpha Natural Resources, a major U.S. coal producer, has established the Alpha Foundation for the Improvement of Mine Safety and Health Inc.
The foundation was set up as part of the company’s non-prosecution agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia and U.S. Department of Justice.
Alpha agreed to make payments and safety investments totaling $209 million in connection with the criminal investigation into the April 5, 2010 explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia. The explosion claimed the lives of 29 coal miners and injured two others.
At the time of the accident, the mine was owned by Richmond-based Massey Energy Co. Its operations were acquired by Alpha in a June 1, 2011 merger.
The Alpha Foundation is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve mine health and safety. Alpha will contribute a total of $48 million to the organization.
Three directors were appointed to administer the foundation: Michael Karmis, Dr. David Wegman, and Keith Heasley. The Alpha Foundation plans to host a kick-off meeting this summer where the directors will discuss funding priorities.
Karmis is the Stonie Barker Professor of the Department of Mining and Minerals Engineering and the director of the Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research at Virginia Tech. He is an expert in the areas of 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.
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.
With $7.1 billion in total revenue in 2012, Alpha Natural Resources ranks as America’s second-largest coal producer by revenue and third-largest by production. It’s the nation’s largest supplier of metallurgical coal used in the steel-making process and is a major supplier of thermal coal to electric utilities and manufacturing industries.
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