Non-profit organization The Alpha Foundation is to award a total of $48 million to various institutions and industry bodies for research projects that address health and safety issues in U.S. mining operations.

According to the Washington Post, the first $10 million has already been allocated, with the group of winners including Virginia Tech and West Virginia University, University of Illinois at Chicago, Colorado School of Mines, Northeastern University, University of California-Berkeley and the universities of Kentucky, Utah, Pittsburgh, Arizona and Connecticut. The only industry representative selected in the first group was the United Steelworkers, which will be working to identify and manage hazards in mines.

Michael Karmis, chairman of The Alpha Foundation, explained that 16 projects out of 160 have been given initial approval and the budgets for each of them are currently being discussed. More proposals will be funded in the future, he added.

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The projects that have won grants include improved systems for through-the-earth communication and an innovative risk-management safety approach that Virginia Tech is going to work on, as well as new mobile equipment technology training and a safety system for surface mines developed by West Virginia University, the Washington Post said.

Meanwhile, Northeastern University will concentrate on ways to prevent whole-body vibration exposure and injury at open coal mines, whereas UC-Berkeley will be examining fatalities caused by heart disease and lung cancer, associated with particulate matter and diesel exhaust.