Unearthing Excellence: Bevill State’s Alabama Mining Academy

Words special to The Walker Leader | Photos by Ryan McGill

Bevill State Community College’s Mine Technology Program, situated on the Sumiton Campus, has provided training to Alabama’s mining industry since 1975. Established officially by the Alabama Legislature in 1985, the Alabama Mining Academy, a cornerstone of Bevill State’s commitment to the mining sector, has been pivotal in enhancing safety and training in the state’s mines. With a dual purpose of promoting mine health and safety and fostering productivity, the Academy has continued to nurture the industry’s workforce.

The Alabama Mining Academy has been a cornerstone of the state’s mining sector since its founding. It provides new miner training and annual refresher courses across the diverse segments of Alabama’s mining industry. What makes it truly exceptional is the underground new miner training program, which boasts a simulated mine designed to replicate conditions akin to an underground mine. This immersive experience lays the foundation for miners to work safely and effectively underground.

In 2019, the Alabama Legislature allocated a game-changing $950,000 to expand the underground mine training center. The expansion provided the space to add longwall mining equipment to the facility, which was donated by the mining industry. The result? The Alabama Mining Academy at Bevill State is now home to one of the nation’s most advanced underground miner training programs.

The program brings new miners closer to their dream of securing a high-paying job with one of Alabama’s underground met coal mining companies. These operations primarily utilize modern longwall mining technology, an efficient and highly automated process. The longwall mining equipment, complex and sophisticated, demands a specialized skill set. The expanded mine training center is a crucial platform to impart the skills and knowledge required to work safely around this specialized electrical and hydraulic equipment.

Met coal, a unique type of coal used in the production of primary steel, plays a crucial role in Alabama’s economy, accounting for a significant 80% of the coal produced in the state. This valuable resource is exported worldwide via the Port of Mobile to steelmakers across the globe, underpinning the state’s global contribution to steel production. As global demand for Alabama’s premium met coal continues to soar, the need for skilled underground miners is expected to grow, offering starting salaries averaging around $85,000 annually.

Dr. Joel Hagood, President of Bevill State Community College, underscores the importance of the coal industry in Alabama’s economic landscape. “The coal industry is a vital segment of Alabama’s economy. According to the Alabama Mining Association, ‘the Alabama coal industry and its supporting suppliers currently employ over 3,000 full-time-equivalent (FTE) employees.’ For decades, the Alabama Mining Academy at Bevill State has provided new miner training and annual refresher training for all segments of Alabama’s mining industry. The College is proud to play this unique role for the workforce in our state. The success of Bevill State’s mine training center can be attributed to long-standing, successful partnerships between the public and private sectors.”

Highlighting the College’s dedication to safety and training, Bevill State received the prestigious Alabama Mining Association (AMA) 2021 Safety & Sustainability Award for Exceptional Safety & Training Initiative. The award recognized Bevill State’s remarkable efforts in expanding the simulated underground mine. This year, Bevill State Mining Instructor Robert Cagle was honored with the AMA’s Lifetime Dedication to Safety and Training Award, a testament to the College’s unwavering commitment to the mining industry’s future.

Bevill State’s Alabama Mining Academy is not just shaping miners; it’s shaping the future of Alabama’s mining industry, ensuring it remains a beacon of safety, innovation, and opportunity for future generations. WL

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