UBB Miners Memorial Progress Report #4
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By Mike Gwinn- Vice President, Upper Big Branch Mining Memorial Group
This is the fourth segment in a series of exclusive updates for Faces of the Mine readers on the progress of the proposed permanent UBB memorial to be built in Whitesville, WV.
Its been almost two months since our last progress report and much has been accomplished in those weeks and days. Its also been about ten months since the Upper Big Branch Mining Memorial Group was formed and this memorial project undertaken. I’ll begin this progress report with a short recap of what we’ve been able to achieve and complete to this point.
Since May, when the public phase of the fund raising effort began, the memorial group has received over $350,000 in donations and pledges. In addition to that, Alpha Natural Resources contributed another $250,000 in matching funds. When gifts-in-kind are added to the total amount the Upper Big Branch Mining Memorial Group has secured nearly $700,000 for the UBB Miners Memorial project.
The site where the proposed memorial will be constructed has also undergone physical changes as well. The riverbank has been buttressed with limestone boulders and a geotechnical survey has been conducted to test the construction worthiness of the land in preparation for work to begin on the foundation of the UBB monument and entrance sign.
That all leads us to the present. In the weeks since our last report in early October the memorial group has been busy finalizing plans for the monument as well as planning for construction to begin in the upcoming days. Sheila has received plans from Rock of Ages, the Vermont granite company contracted to build the UBB monument and entrance sign, for the etching on the front and back of the wall and the extensive foundation that is required for it. A heavy duty base of concrete and rebar will be needed to support the granite wall that will be forty-eight feet long and nine feet tall at it’s highest point. Huntington Steel will supply the rebar for the project at a reduced rate as a gift-in-kind worth over $2,000. Boxley will provide concrete for the foundation of the monument and entrance sign and additionally will contribute $5,000 in the form of a corporate donation to the memorial. Pray Construction will be providing a project manager to oversee the build and Alpha Natural Resources will be providing labor and equipment. Dirt is expected to start flying at the proposed memorial site within the next few weeks.
Sheila and her husband Tim have also been working on various details of the memorial as well. Richwood Investment Castings has contracted with the memorial group to create a bronze casting of the seal of the great state of West Virginia that will be embedded within the granite of the UBB monument. The actual silhouettes of the twenty-nine miners etched on the monument wall will be the silhouettes of six real-life miners photographed at the Elk Run Coal complex in Sylvester, WV. Two of the six miners photographed lost family members in the explosion at UBB. Finally, the group will be working with Dr. Paul H. Rakes to write the text for the back of the monument for the section dedicated to a history of coal mining in West Virginia. Dr. Rakes is a published researcher specializing in coal mining disasters and professor at the WVU Institute of Technology in Montgomery, WV.
The Upper Big Branch Mining Memorial Group also purchased tickets for about fifty players and parents of the Big Coal River Miners youth football league to the Marshall vs. East Carolina football game this past weekend. The kids were allowed down on the playing field at Marshall prior to the game, ran through the team tunnel, toured the football facilities building and had their pictures taken with the Marshall cheerleaders. It was great weather and a great game as the Thundering Herd beat East Carolina in overtime to become bowl eligible.
That’s it for now, Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas from the Upper Big Branch Mining Memorial Group.
Be sure to keep checking Faces of the Mine for more exclusive progress reports from the Upper Big Branch Mining Memorial Group.