Posted By: Marc Gartner, Economic Officer
I was honored when I learned that I would be representing the Ambassador and the U.S. Embassy at the ribbon-cutting ceremony inaugurating the Mine Safety Training Center in Luhansk on September 23. The center is the result of collaboration between the United States and Ukraine and will train all current and future mine inspectors working in Ukraine on the best coal mine safety techniques. The center has been under development by both the United States and Ukrainian governments for the better part of two years, and is modeled on the Mining Safety Training Center in West Virginia. In fact, the training program was created by taking American best practices in mining safety and adapting these safety practices to Ukraine’s unique coal mines, which are amongst the deepest in the world (they typically attain underground depths of 1,000 meters– that’s right, one kilometer straight down!).
Many people may not realize now dangerous coal mining is, especially in Ukraine. According to experts, Ukrainian coal mines are among the most dangerous in the world (per 1 million tons of extracted coal) – about three times as deadly as China’s and 100 times America’s. Each year, over 100 coal miners die on the job and far more are injured. Our hope is that the center will help to significantly reduce injury and death in this fundamental sector.
Despite the 15-hour overnight train ride from Kyiv to Luhansk, I arrived wide awake and ready to learn about the center and meet the folks who helped make it a reality. The event started with speeches given by important Ukrainian labor and mining safety officials from Luhansk, Donetsk and Kyiv, who explained the value of the center to the region’s mining industry, which is essential to Ukraine’s economy. Coal mining provides coking coal for steel manufacturing and power coal for energy production for both heavy industry and residential housing; it is also a main factor indirectly supporting Ukraine’s export industries. After the Ukrainian officials spoke, our own Jerry Triplett from the U.S. Department of Labor took the podium to discuss the history of the center’s development. Jerry is the main American official working with the Ukrainian government and its people to create the center and its program.
I had the chance to speak on behalf of the Ambassador and the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv. I’ve included a synopsis of my remarks below.
This center is a shining example of the shared efforts between the United States and Ukraine to confront the problem of mine safety in Ukraine. It is an example of the spirit of cooperation and goodwill between Ukrainians and Americans. Coal mining is one of the most important activities in Ukraine’s economy, and hundreds of thousands of people devote their lives to this industry. My colleague Jerry Triplett has been working tirelessly for nearly a decade in Ukraine with the goal of helping Ukraine develop solutions to improve mine safety. I would like to thank Jerry for the hard work he has devoted to this project. I would also like to thank the members of the Ukrainian government who are here today for their deep support of the mining safety center. You are a key contributor that will make this program successful, and the United States and i
ts citizens graciously thank you for giving us the opportunity to cooperate in this important endeavor.
After the official ribbon cutting, we were all treated to a tour of the facility. This included a visit to the main training room, where we met some members of the very first training program. Many of these folks were former miners looking for a change of pace in their careers, and I’d like to think that many of them chose to work as mining safety inspectors from a desire to improve the safety environment for their fellow miners.
The center itself is very modern, using advanced presentation techniques and computer programs to train inspectors in the most useful and effective safety techniques. It is a powerful sign of the friendship between the United States and Ukraine that the U.S. Government has spent $250,000 to develop the center, create the training program and buy the safety equipment and training materials. The center is now the only one of its kind in Ukraine, and is a fantastic example of what can be achieved through the collaboration of American diplomacy and technical assistance with the government and people of Ukraine.