State leaders praise Indiana’s new Confined Space Training Facility

Vincennes University Logo

September 15, 2017

FORT BRANCH, Ind. - Indiana Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch praised the high quality training available thanks to the opening of Vincennes University’s new Confined Space Training Facility in Gibson County.

“This is one of a kind, not just in Indiana but in the country. I'm so impressed with the work Vincennes University is doing, not just to prepare our workers for the future but to protect our workers, too," Crouch said.

The $2 million facility, completed in late May, is located at VU’s Gibson County Center for Advanced Manufacturing and Logistics. The underground facility has 11 entrances around three sides of the structure. VU approved construction of the mock mine last year after receiving funding for the project in the state budget. Krempp Construction, Inc., Jasper, built the almost 40,000 square-foot facility.

The Confinded Space Training Facility features:

1,300 lineal feet of training space
Realistic mine/confined space atmosphere
Fire training module and burn area with theatrical smokers
Fresh air bay training module
Ideal training scenarios for miners, fire and rescue, emergency responders, utility workers, and law enforcement personnel in active shooter exercises

"I've traveled all over the state and people will say what an incredible job Vincennes University is doing, said Crouch. “It looks to the future and has the vision to be able to prepare our workers for what is coming, not just for what we have today."

“This is by far one of the most flexible, detailed, and largest simulated mines that I have had the privilege of working with,” said Greg Xanders, director of the VU Mining program. With more than 40 years of experience in the mining industry, Xanders noted that the facility is “one of the premier mine training facilities in the country” and will be valuable in providing hands-on training that can save lives.

“When you talk about hands-on mine safety, mine rescue, and other forms of training, this facility can provide new and experienced miners skills related to ventilation, controlling dangerous gases, dealing with emergency situations and many more lab-type experiences,” Xanders said.

He envisions mine rescue teams from Indiana and other Midwest states competing and training at the site “in an environment closer to that of a mine setting.” He also believes it will be valuable for training personnel and students in Fire Science and Law Enforcement.

"This is the only facility like this in the nation - and it's all about our miners,” said Phil Rath, vice president for Government Relations at VU. “We care about our miners. We care about their families. We care about everything they do and the contribution they make to our economy here."

VU is Indiana's designated recipient of federal grant funding from the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) to provide assistance in 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 required training for new surface miners. In addition, MSHA requires an annual refresher training for all miners. VU’s instructors have years of experience in mine safety and health.

Coal is located in 18 counties in southwestern Indiana, with rock mining located in most of Indiana’s 92 counties. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, Indiana has 17 billion tons of recoverable coal.

Denzil Hughes, supervisor for Educational Field and Small Mine Services for the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration, says the new VU simulator is a model training facility that will attract training from a wide geographic area.

Including both on-site and off-site instruction, VU has provided 5,524 miners with training so far in 2017 - up from 3,017 miners trained in 2014 and 3,888 miners who completed the training in 2016.