Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

September 13, 2013

Coal Show serves as showcase for coal mine technology

BRUSHFORK — From the early days, the Bluefield Coal Show has traditionally served as a forum for new ideas in the coal industry, and the 2013 show is no exception to that rule.

“Our brand isn’t new in the coal industry,” Tony Johnson said. Johnson is the marketing manager, mining sales and support division, for Caterpillar. “We’re just a new splash of yellow in the dark, underground coal mines.”

Prior to the 2011 Bluefield Coal Show, Caterpillar had purchased Bucyrus International, but the underground equipment on display was still painted in the color Bucyrus had used for years. For this year, the underground equipment Caterpillar brought is painted in the familiar Caterpillar yellow and more.

“We’re incorporating a lot more Caterpillar components into our equipment,” Johnson said. “We introduced a new miner at Mine Expo 2012 in Las Vegas. At this show, we’re showing customers the equipment via the touch-point experience.” He said that the company’s digital presentation of the equipment has been well received.

“It’s a good show to help you understand the technology in the equipment” a 39-year veteran coal miner said as he passed through the Caterpillar display area. He didn’t want his name used in the story. “It shows you where the future is headed.”

Kim Bailey, also of the Caterpillar product marketing mining sales and service division, said that she has observed more coal miners and coal mine decision-making people at the Bluefield Coal Show than she expected.

“Yesterday, I talked to a couple of customers from South Africa,” she said. “It seemed unusual to see customers from that far away in Bluefield.” Caterpillar has been providing shuttle bus service to see the company’s re-building facility in Princeton. “It leaves every half hour.”

Several shows ago, the Coal Show outgrew the inside of the National Guard Armory/Civic Center as well as a large portion of the front parking lot. As a result, the Greater Bluefield Chamber of Commerce got more space by annexing a fenced-in parking area where the 1st of the 150th West Virginia Army National Guard kept its tanks. Matrix is located at the back of the lot, but still managed to draw a crowd of people interested in enjoying a hamburger while seeing a demonstration of the company’s IntelliZone Proximity Detection system and its MX3 Sensors to detect carbon monoxide, methane and air flow.

“We’ve been working with the IntelliZone system since 2005, and put the first one in service in the field in 2009,” Randy Moore of the Matrix Design Group said. He added that as a result of the company’s long working relationship with Alliance Coal, as well as its work with Caterpillar and Alpha Natural Resources, Matrix already has 200 IntelliZone units in active underground coal mines.

The audible alarm proximity detection units can be programmed to meet a myriad of potential scenarios underground, and have features that automatically stop equipment when a coal miner is in the path of a machine.

“We’re very proud of the progress we have made to improve safety in underground coal mining,” David Clardy, senior vice president of Matrix said.

Monte Rife of First Community Bank entered the armory/civic center and proclaimed to Marc Meachum, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Bluefield Chamber of Commerce, that the shuttle buses from Mitchell Stadium to the Coal Show is “the best idea I’ve seen in years. Parking has been a growing problem in recent years, but the shuttle bus system has all but eliminated that problem,” Rife said.

The Coal Show will conclude this afternoon.

— Contact Bill Archer at barcher@bdtonline.com

Weather Alert: Due to a severe storm in the area, all Coal Show exhibitors, attendees and volunteers are directed to park at Mitchell Stadium today and ride on chartered buses. There will be no on-site parking at the Armory.

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