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The Mining Department went through a period of uncertainty earlier this year. It seemed that their government funding was to be cut off, forcing the department to close its doors for good. As instructors Dale Evans and Randy Mabbutt prepared for the worst, USU Eastern mourned the loss of a program that has been a part of this school since it opened in 1937 as Carbon College.
Due to unforeseen actions lead by Congressman Hal Rogers of Kentucky, federal funding was restored to mining education programs in 49 states and the Navajo Nation. This turn of events was nothing short of miraculous, and has caused many to reflect the mining program and its impact to USU Eastern and the community of Southeast Utah.
Mining has always been a backbone of Carbon County and is a huge industry in the entire state of Utah.
Carbon County obviously is abundant in coal. The community was built around the valuable rock and has now expanded to natural gas and many other minable resources. When most people in this area think of mining, they picture an underground coal mine. However, Utah is rich in many other natural resources besides coal. The Utah Mining Association reports: “Overall, Utah ranks fifth in the nation for non-fuel mineral production (first in Beryllium and Gilsoninte), second in copper production, second in gold and 12th in the nation for coal production.” (Retrieved from www.utahmining.org.)
The mining department at USU Eastern offers government mandated training. The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) requires anyone who will work in or on a mine site for any reason to receive safety training courses. These courses range from one to four days in length and train on surface and underground mines. Safety training is immeasurably important, especially when working in a hazardous environment. Receiving the proper training can mean the difference between a safe work environment and serious or fatal injury.
Like all other USU Eastern programs, the mining department boasts an affordable price tag, charging an average of $90 per course and $115 for a dual certification. Other MSHA trainings can cost $100 per day, easily tripling the cost offered at Eastern. Evans and Mabbutt agree that their mission is to make quality training accessible by offering an affordable price.
The mining program has certified nearly 8,000 students and 500 different companies since 2008. There is a wide array of students in each course. Miners, engineers, truck drivers, geologists, construction workers, contractors and BLM workers frequent the MSHA training courses. Anyone who will be working at a mine site for any reason is required to have this training. Mabbutt explains that in each class there are people from many different walks of life. There may be a young man who didn’t graduate high school sitting next to someone with a doctorate in Geology. This makes for an interesting mix, but Mabbutt has enjoyed teaching a diverse group and has learned that no matter what their background everyone is just trying to get their job done well.
This year Evans and Mabbutt are running the entire department by themselves. Last year their budget decreased from $172 thousand to $64 thousand. They had to let go several staff members and the two instructors are still managing to teach all the scheduled courses on top of their other office responsibilities. Even though they are understaffed, they both love what they do so much they would never consider leaving. Evans says “we are passionate about what we do, we work hard at it, and we take pride in it.” Both Evans and Mabbutt have experience working in mines. They know the industry provides jobs to many and builds the economy, it is estimated that for every mining job, 3-5 service jobs are created, and created $5,598 million in revenue in Utah 2011. National Mining Association (2013, August). The Economic Contributions of the Mining Industry in 2011. Retrieved from www.NMA.org. Mining is also a fairly lucrative profession, in Utah the average coal miner earns $73 thousand a year. Many people who would never been able to afford higher education earn the money they need mining and return to USU Eastern to earn a degree.
Coal supplies around 55% of all electricity generated by public utilities in America. (Retrieved from www.utahmining.org.) This goes to show that mining is not a dying profession, and modern society’s dependence on mined materials is not a thing of the past. Evans pointed out that it takes 49 mined minerals to build a cell phone. Mining supports many aspects of day-to-day life that often go unnoticed. Without the mining industry communities like Carbon and Emery counties would cease to thrive. Competent and safety conscious workers will always be needed mines throughout the state.
Eastern’s mining department provides the highest quality training available. Both MSHA and the state of Utah frequently audit training courses to ensure the course material is being taught correctly. Evans and Mabbutt have received nothing but rave reviews from auditors and students alike. The BLM recently expressed appreciation for the mining program for the effective and essential Both instructors also have the rare credentials necessary to train electricians, specialty services, and even train other trainers. Although the period of time when the mining department was said to be shutting down damaged the public image a bit, everyone is overjoyed that the department is saved and wants to get the word out to anyone who would enroll in a training course.
USU Eastern is lucky to have the mining department on its campus. Large amounts of students come to Eastern for the mining courses, giving Eastern exposure to people from California, Washington, and Illinois to name a few. Not only do these visitors learn about what USU Eastern has to offer, they also bring revenue into the city through lodging, eating out and other expenditures. In short, the mining program sheds a positive light on the school and community.