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Tabletop Exercises Paper Gets Conference Spot

Tue May 13 2008

A member of the Center for Educational Technologies® has had a paper accepted for presentation at a mining conference.

Hope Childers, GIS/remote sensing analyst, is a coauthor of "Tabletop Reviews of Emergency Action Plans for High Hazard Dams in West Virginia, USA." Lead author is Dr. John Quaranta, associate director of the West Virginia Water Research Institute at West Virginia University. A third author is Paul Myles, program director at the National Technology Transfer Center at Wheeling Jesuit University.

The paper will be presented at Tailings and Mine Waste '08, which is part of a series of symposia on mill tailings management started at Colorado State University in 1978. This year's conference will be held Oct. 18-23 in Vail, CO.

Childers has led the development of tabletop exercises as part of the Coal Impoundment Location and Information System project operated by the Center for Educational Technologies and the National Technology Transfer Center. Myles is the program director for the project, which created a website to identify coal impoundments in West Virginia, to alert residents of emergency situations and related evacuation plans, to improve safety, and to provide the latest information on legal actions and alternatives for impounding coal waste.

A tabletop exercise is a low-key, non-time-pressured discussion that helps local emergency management officials work through a scenario and plan ahead should a problem ever arise. For example, Childers designed one tabletop exercise involving a potential failure of a Marshall County coal impoundment, just south of Wheeling.

Impoundments collect wastewater from the preparation or washing of the coal. In the tabletop scenario the dam itself is fine, but participants were told there was seepage around a pipe running through the impoundment. That was allowing water laced with coal dust to make its way into a neighboring creek. Participants reviewed emergency plans for the impoundment and discussed public notification, evacuation, and mass care plans for Marshall and Ohio counties as part of their respective all-hazards emergency operations plans.

The primary purpose of the Tailings and Mine Waste '08 conference is to provide a forum for members of the mining community, engineers and scientists serving the mining industry, regulatory groups, and other interest groups concerned with environmental issues related to tailings and mine waste management. Tailings (also known as slimes, gangue, tailings pile, tails, leach residue, or slickens) are the materials left over after the process of separating the valuable fraction from the worthless fraction of an ore.