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December 6, 2013

WVU director honored for work in mine safety

‘Because of You’ award presented to Jim Dean for 22 years of contributions

FAIRMONT — After mining disasters in West Virginia and in the United States, professionals look at how they can make mines safer.

Jim Dean, director of mining and industrial extension at West Virginia University, received the “Because of You” Safety Professional Award thanks to his significant contributions to mining safety.

Dean was presented the award at the 2013 Spirit of the Coalfields Miners’ Celebration at the Tamarack Conference Center in Beckley in October.

“I was deeply honored, given the quality and number of safety professionals working in the mining industry and associated groups,” Dean said about receiving the award.

The “Because of You” award is given to individuals or groups that have made a significant contribution to the mining industry.

Over the 22 years Dean has been involved with the mining industry, whether it be teaching or acting on safety committees, he has given his fair share of contributions to mine safety.

Dean is serving on the National Research Council Committee, which looks at self-escape in coal mines. He was also selected to be acting director of the West Virginia Office of Miners Health Safety and Training in 2006 by request of then-Gov. Joe Manchin.

“It was a culmination of activities, including various analyses of accident information, testing of new technologies, and new training facilities and programs,” Dean said.

While directing the West Virginia Office of Miners Health Safety and Training following the Sago and Aracoma disasters, Dean said his duties included investigating those disasters, other fatalities and accidents, and other duties.

Dean said the reason he has been dedicated to mining safety is simply because he cares about people in the mining industry.

“They are truly a great group doing an incredibly difficult job,” he said. “Most have an incredible work ethic and strong sense of honesty and integrity.”

As for the future of mining safety, Dean has his hand in that as well. He is currently serving on the West Virginia Mine Safety Technology Task Force, which looks at new technology for improving mine safety and emergency operations.

“I believe that there can be continued improvement in mine safety through behavioral- or performance-based safety approaches and technological approaches,” Dean said.

Dean said some of the new technology in mine safety will require innovation and more streamlined approval processes through the Mine Safety and Health Administration.

“Some technologies that I think hold the greatest promise include cameras on mobile equipment coupled with image recognition for intelligent machine control, proximity detection and mine-wide monitoring technologies,” he said.

Dean is originally from Rowlesburg and attended Fairmont State College, then West Virginia University. He first started working at WVU in 1991 as a lecturer in the Mining Engineering Department. In 1994, he became director of the Mining and Industrial Extension Service.

Dean said WVU has been very helpful to him and the department.

“They’re supportive by allowing me and our department the freedom to choose the areas of emphasis we select to work in,” he said. “I work with a great group of classified staff, instructors and other professionals both inside the department, our college and across the university.”

Dean said his wife Nancy of 26 years and their daughter Breann have also been very supportive of his work and travel schedule.

Dean has a list of accolades in the mine safety field, including the Distinguished West Virginian Award in 2006, the President’s Distinguished Service Award in 2008 and the National Research Council Committee Member of the National Academies in 2012.

Email Emily Gallagher at or follow her on Twitter @EGallagherTWV.

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