W.Va. mine safety lab creates disasters to train

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By VICKI SMITH, Associated Press

JULIAN, W.Va. (AP) — Alpha Natural Resources is unveiling a $23 million training complex for coal miners that combines the world's best technology in a single West Virginia complex — and may save lives.

The Running Right Leadership Academy is a place where crises can be created but controlled in a 96,000-square-foot model coal mine, giving workers realistic preparation for the day they hope will never come.

The academy grew from a landmark $210 million settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice over the Upper Big Branch mine disaster.

It opens Thursday, but Virginia-based Alpha gave The Associated Press early access.

U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin says it's hard to grasp how important the facility is without seeing it.

Mine-rescue captain Dave Green says it gives his team an unparalleled place to practice.

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