Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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July 17, 2012

Advanced training

Help for unemployed miners

— — The Obama administration’s war on coal is beginning to take its toll on the region’s once robust mining industry. A growing number of coal miners across the area are finding themselves unemployed, and that is truly unfortunate.

Word that Workforce West Virginia has been awarded $1.8 million in federal funds to provide re-employment services to miners impacted by the statewide layoffs is the only silver lining that can be found in this otherwise troubling story.

The grant funding will allow for re-employment services to begin initially for about 200 miners affected by layoffs in the mining industry. The grant from the Department of Labor will be managed by the United Mine Workers of America Career Centers Inc.

The UMWA Career Centers provide additional training for coal miners so they can get the skills they need to regain employment. In some instances, the skills can lead to all new careers.

“Though we are very concerned about the continuing job losses in the coal industry, there is no better place for these workers to get the training they need than the UMWA Career Centers,” United Mine Workers of America International President Cecil E. Roberts said last week. “The job training available through the UMWA Career Centers is second to none, and the workers who receive it will be well prepared for a bright future providing for themselves and their families.”

The federal funding award was jointly announced last week by U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.; U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.; and U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va.

The UMWA Career Centers rely on funding from the federal Mine Safe and Health Administration and the states to provide advanced mine safety skills training for new and inexperienced miners, incumbent miners, mine managers and supervisors, mine examiners, and mine rescue teams while also providing critical training to those miners when they lose their jobs. Both facilities have smoke chambers and classrooms to accommodate the scope of training that is necessary to provide better education to mine personnel.

It is unfortunate that the region is having to provide re-employment services to our miners. But given the uncertainty facing the region’s historic coalfields, the Obama administration’s relentless war on coal and the recent plunge in the price of natural gas that has made it cheaper for utilities to produce electricity, the challenges facing the mining industry are mounting.

The federal grant funds to help miners with re-employment services is helpful. But what we really need is a Congress, and a president, which understands the importance of all fossil fuels, including coal.

Turning our back on our most abundant natural resources is foolish. And it’s taking a toll on miners and their families across our region at a time when the nation’s jobless rate remains stubbornly high.

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