Alpha Natural Resources, a leading U.S. coal producer, has named Michael Karmis, Virginia Tech’s Stonie Barker Professor of Mining and Minerals Engineering, as one of three directors to administer its new foundation to improve mine health and safety.

The Alpha Foundation for the Improvement of Mine Safety and Health Inc., is a non-profit organization whose mission is to improve mine health and safety through funding projects by qualified academic institutions, not-for-profit entities, and individuals associated with those entities. Alpha will contribute a total of $48 million to the foundation.

Karmis, world-renowned for his achievements in the interests of mine safety and health, also serves as the director of the Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research, and is currently managing some $33 million in research projects. One of his most recent projects is a U.S. Department of Energy project to test the ability to inject carbon dioxide into coal seams that cannot be mined, documenting in a best practices manual how to best capture carbon dioxide and its storage. This $11.5 million project is also researching how to best enhance coal bed methane recovery.

Karmis is also the founder of a consortium of major research universities, called the Appalachian Research Initiative for Environmental Science, to address the environmental impacts of the discovery, development, production and use of energy resources in Appalachia.

In addition to Karmis, Alpha Natural Resources also appointed Dr. David Wegman, professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell’s Department of Work Environment and adjunct professor at the Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Massachusetts Medical School; and Keith Heasley, a professor at West Virginia University’s Department of Mining Engineering, as directors. All three directors are highly-qualified experts in mine health and safety and come from diverse professional and academic backgrounds. The Alpha Foundation says they plan to host a kick-off meeting this summer where the directors will discuss funding priorities.

Kevin Crutchfield, CEO of Alpha Natural Resources, said, “The safety of our employees is the highest value of our company, and mine safety and health is imperative to the success of our industry. We are proud to establish and fund the Alpha Foundation and also appoint three leading experts to advance its objectives. This presents a tremendous opportunity to drive the latest developments and innovation in mine safety and health to the benefit of miners around the world.”