Engaging and Sustaining

Arch Coal

Problem:

Arch Coal planned to construct and operate an underground mine and preparation facility in the heart of West Virginia’s southern coal fields. Gaining the permit would not be simple. The coal wars of the 1920s were held within a few miles of the new mine that was slated to be a non-union operation. Environmentalists had been very active in the area against both surface and underground mining. Arch Coal’s challenge was to move forward with the project while respecting the needs and sensitivities of the local community.

Solution:

In a first for the industry, Ann Green Communications was asked to organize and facilitate a Community Advisory Panel (CAP) as part of the company’s efforts to construct and operate the mine. Company officials announced the formation of the CAP at the public event to publicize plans for the mine. The CAP would be the focus of any concerns by neighbors regarding all aspects of the mine’s development and operation.

The group was seated before ground was broken on the new mine. Members learned of every aspect of the project, including efforts to protect the environment, hiring practices and transportation of coal from the mine. Roads and rail road tracks had to be moved. Homes were purchased to make way for the facility. All these challenges were discussed openly at the CAP meetings. Problems were brought to the group and solutions were sought together.

Of particular concern was maintaining local water quality. Because of the mine’s water needs, they persuaded the area water company to extend service to the area, not only for the mine but for the benefit of the community.

An old bridge still used by school buses was deemed unsafe for heavy coal trucks. The company built another bridge beside the old bridge and turned it over to the state for use by the public.

The CAP and mine personnel have worked cooperatively to revitalize Rockhouse Lake, a 14-acre pond reclaimed from old mining property. The Lake project began as a CAP initiative to clean up an underutilized recreational asset in the community. It has evolved into a community development project with partners ranging from local government agencies to local businesses and community organizations. The project now includes stocking the lake with bass and trout, a handicap accessible pier, a pavilion, basketball courts and a playground.

The CAP remains the focal point for community’s issues and neighbors’ concerns. Because problems have been solved directly by the industry representatives, law suits—so prevalent in projects like these—were avoided. The community has benefited from access to safe public water supplies, a new and safer bridge, and the support of the mine for important community initiatives. The group continues to be a very active and vital part of the life of the community and a sounding board for the mine.

Crisis Planning

Arch Coal

Problem:

In the wake of the Sago (West Virginia) Mine disaster and the secondary tragedy of the failed communications with families and media, the coal industry was awakened to the need for crisis management beyond emergency response. Arch Coal, Inc. asked Ann Green Communications to develop crisis communications plans for their 10 mines throughout the country and a plan for how regional and corporate offices should interface with the mines during a crisis.

Ann Green Communications visited 10 mines, interviewing management personnel and identifying potential problem areas in crisis communications. The firm’s team evaluated communications equipment capabilities, identified locations for media and families to gather, and helped managers determine Emergency Operations Center location and team members.

Additionally, the Ann Green Communications’ Crisis Consultants visited each mine site to train the Crisis Management Teams on the new plans and drill to assure the assignments and logistics would function properly.

Solution:

The Arch Coal Mines were provided Crisis Management Plans and all the management teams were trained and drilled. As a result, the project enhanced the ability for team members to provide mutual aid to other Arch mines in the event of a major accident.

To test the plans, Arch conducted two Mine Emergency Rescue Drills (MERDs). Ann Green Communications provided “media” to create the intensity only media coverage can bring in a crisis. Mock news conferences were conducted and the firm’s “reporters” made efforts to get to family members and on mine property to test security measures and personnel response.

In addition, Ann Green Communications worked with mine personnel to simulate a family center atmosphere and test elements of the plan related to interaction with mine families affected by the emergency.

Ann Green Communications’ Crisis Consultants also were monitors, providing valuable feedback following the exercises.

The MERDs showed the crisis plans were well designed and properly executed.