October 29, 2007

Seminar to examine 'The Future of Coal Mining'

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. — The Southern Illinois landscape is home to about a dozen operating coal mines and bears the marks of dozens more, reminders of decades when coal was king.

Advances in technology are bringing those days back and researchers at Southern Illinois University Carbondale have organized a conference on coal mining's future set for early November.

"The Future of Coal Mining" is the second in a series of public discussions on the future of energy sponsored by the University. The discussion, sponsored by the SIUC Coal Research Center and Connect SI, is set for the evening of Thursday, Nov. 8, at Southeastern Illinois College near Harrisburg.

Joe Angleton, director of the Illinois Office of Mines and Minerals, is the featured speaker for the event, which will start at 5:30 p.m. with refreshments and introductions. The program begins at 6 p.m. and will run to about 8 p.m.

The discussion is aimed at those with interests in the future of energy and corresponding environmental issues, said John S. Mead, director of the Coal Research Center and associate dean of the SIUC Graduate School.

"It's for those who may have thought of mining in Southern Illinois as a thing of the past and people with questions about what it means to have a coal mine in your neighborhood," Mead said. "We envision it as a very interactive meeting, with lots of information, wide-ranging discussion and questions and answers."

Illinois has some of the richest deposits of coal in the United States, which in turn has one of the biggest repositories of coal in the world, Mead said. There is far more energy locked up in coal worldwide then petroleum, and new technologies are finding ways to use it in more environmentally friendly ways.

A well-attended public discussion in September looked at such developing technologies as coal gasification and the new FutureGen power plant. Coal mining and its future was a logical choice for the next in the discussion series, Mead said, which will continue into next year.

Along with Angleton, the event will feature a panel discussion examining topics such as mine safety, new mining methods, training and workforce, markets for coal and subsidence issues. A question-and-answer session with audience members will follow.

Future programs on biofuels and energy sustainability will follow during the ensuing months, with the series slated to wrap up in spring.

The event is free and open to the public, but organizers encourage pre-registration, as seating for the event is limited to 150. To pre-register, contact Man-Tra-Con Corp. by phone at 618/998-0970, ext. 215; by fax at 618/998-1291, attn: Tammy Kirk; by email at TammyKirk@mantracon.org. You also can write to Man-Tra-Con Corp., 3000 W. DeYoung St., Suite 880-B, Marion, IL 62959.