Education Underground

Education Underground

New Simulation Center Attracts Midwestern Companies
By Nick Dmitrovich with input from Vincennes University

In a state as industrious as Indiana, education and training comes in all shapes and sizes. Probably one of the best examples of specialized instruction the state has to offer is currently being developed at Vincennes University’s Gibson County Center for Advanced Manufacturing and Logistics. There, construction is underway on Indiana’s first and only underground mining simulation center.

Modeled after a simulated underground mine training facility at West Virginia University, VU expects its new facility to attract miners from throughout Indiana, Illinois, and Kentucky in addition to numerous other types of organizations.

Krempp Construction, Inc., of Jasper, was awarded a $2.074 million contract to build the almost 40,000 square-foot mock mine. VU received funding for the project in the state’s biennium budget. The facility was designed by Andrew Young, Vincennes University Campus Architect, with help from Cash Waggner & Associates, PC, and Lynch, Harrison & Brumleve, Inc.

“In addition to coal, this new center will be useful for other types of mining as well as fire and rescue training and VU’s Homeland Security and Law Enforcement programs,” said VU President Chuck Johnson.

VU Mining Program Director Greg Xanders described some of the features of the project and ways that it will be utilized. He said, “The new mining simulation center is in-ground, and it kind of resembles an earthen house from the outside. It’s going to be a great tool for mining and rescue training. It’s scaled down, smaller than an actual mine, but it is designed to represent a real mine with its entryways, crosscuts, pillars, and passageways. For example, an actual coal mine might have 20-foot-wide passageways, and ours is 12 feet wide – which is what is often used in mine rescue training.”

“The facility is a concrete structure with a rock floor and a precast concrete ceiling that’s about 7 feet high. It’s laid out like a grid with entryways and crosscuts,” he added.

“Law enforcement groups plan to use the mine simulator for search and rescue training and also active shooter training. They’ll be able to search room to room and down the passageways like they would do inside a school or regular building,” Xanders explained. “For mining, we’ll be able to conduct smoke training using theatrical smoke, and the space was actually designed to incorporate live burn training. That involves a propane fire in a pit, so trainees can experience the feeling of heat in that environment. Propane doesn’t produce much smoke, so we use the safer theatrical smoke and have our trainees learn to find their way out of the mine without much visibility – a very real situation. Mining companies will be sending their mine rescue teams and fire brigades to train in this facility.”

The center will have two main entrances with two exits on each side. The site is approximately 2.5 acres for the mining simulation area, including the access road. The basic layout has three long 12-foot-wide corridors running east-west and five 12-foot-wide corridors running in the north-south direction.  Between the corridors there are 24-foot by 24-foot rooms, and there are 11 ramps that lead down to the facility. There are also two chambers that will protrude above ground for simulations in areas with height-related tasks.

VU is Indiana’s designated recipient of federal grant funding from the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) to provide assistance in the training and retraining of Indiana’s miners.  The VU program was initiated in October 2005 for miners in all segments of the mining industry, including coal, sand and gravel, cement, crushed stone, dimension limestone, gypsum, shale, and clay.  VU’s Mining program provides the required training for new underground miners and new surface miners, in addition to MSHA-required annual refresher training for all miners.

“VU provides MSHA training to thousands of miners annually.  This new facility will add to our capacity to do that training,” Johnson said.

Construction of the mock mine began in autumn of 2016, and it will take about seven months to complete.

VU’s Gibson County Center for Advanced Manufacturing is a leading resource for workforce development. The 57,000 square-foot facility features modern and flexible training labs and classrooms that serve employers, employees, and students within southwestern Indiana’s industrial corridor. It is located on U.S. 41 near Fort Branch and just a few miles from Interstates 64 and 69.



Beneath Your Feet:
Facts about Mining in Indiana

  • Coal is located in 18 counties in southwestern Indiana, with rock mining located in most of Indiana’s 92 counties.
  • Indiana has 17 billion tons of recoverable coal.
  • There are over 290 mining operations in Indiana.
  • Indiana produces 36 million tons of coal each year.
  • In Pike and Sullivan counties, more than 15 percent of the workforce was employed in coal mining in 2013.
  • The Bureau of Mines, headquartered in Vincennes, Indiana, inspects all Indiana underground coal mining operations and certifies specific mining occupations.
  • Indiana stone, sand, and gravel are mined for building roads, bridges, buildings, and all the state’s infrastructure.
  • Indiana limestone is mined in south-central Indiana and is used all over the United States.
  • Lime, produced by heating crushed limestone, is used in agriculture and the steel industry.

Sources: VU, Indiana Geological Survey, Indiana Business Research Center, DOL