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Group from Canada visits Kentucky coal mines

By: Angela Sparkman Email
By: Angela Sparkman Email

BENHAM, Ky. (WYMT) - Officials from British Columbia, Canada say coal mining is a growing industry in that region, but they need trained coal miners to work.

A group is touring Eastern Kentucky to learn how to mine coal underground.

The Canadian representatives say underground coal mining is a new practice in British Columbia, Canada. The area is ready to mine, but leaders say Canada does not have trained underground coal miners.

"We're facing a huge skills gap. There's a huge need for training workers, training the work force and working in the industry, so we're here to learn some of the best practice develop some partnerships and collaborations," said Laurie Rancourt, President of Northern Lights College in Canada.

They came to an area known for coal mining. Representatives from two Canadian colleges visited Eastern Kentucky to get ideas to set-up a program similar to the Kentucky Coal Academy.

"We want to make sure we're learning how to do it, that we're following the best practice, but also looking at safety and the way we can develop training and skills development that will meet the needs of Northern British Columbia," said Denise Henning, President of Northwest Community College in Canada.

The Kentucky Coal Academy leaders say they were glad to help.

"Coal miners everywhere are brothers, so anytime coal miners can help other coal miners, they want to do that," said Murrel Dixon.

Officials Harlan County say the partnership could help Eastern Kentucky in the long run.

"It lets us learn a lot of things and of course anytime we can swap that kind of knowledge and help out, we'll do that, but we hope to be able to help them and learn from them as well," said Gary Whisman, Executive Director of the Kentucky Coal Academy.

While here, the Canadian group toured coal mines, visited the Coal Mining Museum and Portal 31, and held roundtable discussions with local officials in several counties.

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