Two of the mine’s employees recently made the highest two scores in the state on the Alabama Mine Foreman Certification Test.
Micah Davis of Jasper won the coveted lantern award for earning the top score in Alabama since 1984. He made a 98.3 on the three-day exam, which he took at Bevill State Community College in Sumiton.
Davis’ co-worker Chris Lackey of Carbon Hill made a 97.8 on the exam.
“That’s a pretty big accomplishment,” said Carbon Hill Mine Superintendent Robert Cunningham. “It’s a big deal.”
A total of 79 people took the exam this time; it is administered every spring and fall.
According to Cunningham, miners must pass the test in order to operate a mine. Passing the exam does not automatically turn a miner into a foreman, but it opens the door for promotions.
Since Davis has worked in the mining industry for less than four years, he did not get certified as a foreman; rather, he received the Fire Boss Certificate. Lackey, who has been a miner for more than six years, did receive his Mine Foreman Certificate.
Davis said he started studying for the exam, which consists of written and oral questions, in December. The test is based on the Coal Mining Laws of the State of Alabama handbook.
Davis and Lackey are both maintenance workers at the mine, which is operated by Prospect Mining and Development Co. Inc. They work on electrical, hydraulic, mechanical and other types of equipment.
“Whatever breaks, we fix it,” said Lackey.
Davis, who has been at the Carbon Hill Mine longer - he was the fifth employee Cunningham hired, also helped build the mine site, including drilling holes for power poles and pouring concrete.
Cunningham said mine employees built everything at the site, including shafts, tunnels and buildings. They have also installed conveyer belts and all other equipment.
“This place started out as trees and a field,” Cunningham said.
The mine began producing coal in August 2010. It currently employees 31 people, but Cunningham said it will employee upward of 250 when it is fully operational.
“As the mine grows, so will the crew,” Lackey said.
Cunningham said the mine could operate for 25 or 35 years before the coal plays out.
As proud as he is of Davis and Lackey, he said all of the mine employees work hard and work safely.
“We haven’t had any accidents here in over three years above ground,” he said, “and we’ve had only one underground. The federal inspectors really brag on this mine. It’s a good mine, a well-run mine, a safe mine.”
Cunningham said coal miners have an ongoing friendly competition about who has the highest safety record, rate of production and other standards.
“Who’s got the best coal mine?” he said. “Right now Carbon Hill’s got the best.”