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Ros Hill

Ros Hill stands outside Old Main next to a rock drilled by mining engineering students during competition.

San Xavier Mining Lab Director Wins International Mine Safety Award

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San Xavier Mining Lab Director Wins International Mine Safety Award

April 16, 2009
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Mine director's goals are graduating the safest mining engineers and designing the safest mines in the world.

Ros Hill, director of the San Xavier Mining Laboratory, has been awarded the H. L. Boling Above and Beyond Safety Award by the International Society of Mine Safety Professionals.

Hill will receive the award May 20 -- on behalf of the UA, the Department of Mining and Geological Engineering and the College of Public Health -- at the society’s Critical Issues Conference in Daytona Beach, Florida.

The award is given to organizations and companies that demonstrate outstanding dedication to safety and health excellence, and extraordinary leadership skills as part of achieving an exemplary safety and health record, or that have made an outstanding contribution assisting the mining industry with safety and health issues.

The award is named for H.L. Boling, a founder of the International Society of Mine Safety Professionals and its executive director and awards chairman.

“To me the award is significant because it is recognition by my peers of what we have been able to do in the department, which is move toward our goal of graduating the safest mining engineers and designing the safest mines in the world,” Hill said. “It is recognition by our peers that we have a world-class mining engineering program where safe production is the only acceptable alternative.”

Mine-Ready Graduates

Hill currently directs miner health and safety programs, teaches classes in mining health and safety, and directs the San Xavier Mining Laboratory. He says his goal is “to graduate the safest mining engineers designing the safest mines in the world.”

The Department of Mining and Geological Engineering is recognized as having a unique laboratory in the San Xavier Mine. Students operate the mine and can work their way up the ladder of mine leadership positions. “Our students can serve in every position from miner to mine manager,” Hill said. “We have positions for directors of engineering, operations, maintenance and safety. The sole purpose of the mine is to teach students to work safely in an underground mining environment.”

When students graduate, they are recognized for their practical leadership skills in a very difficult work environment. “One of our mine co-managers is graduating this year,” Hill said, “and has been offered an initial leadership role in a major mining company with starting pay between $85,000 and $90,000.”

The mine is self-supporting and funded primarily through a contract with the Laborers Union International of North America for training underground construction workers. Since its inception in 2000, more than 700 new workers from across the US have been trained in safety and skills courses at the laboratory. The New York “sandhogs” are trained at the mine, and many of the underground subway, transportation, and water systems being constructed across the US use workers who received safety training at the San Xavier Mine.

Rocks for drilling
The Marco Crane crew load drilled out rocks onto a truck outside Old Main after unloading some new rocks, which will be used for drilling competitions by mining engineering students. The rocks come from the Sierrita mine operated by Freeport McMoRan near Tucson. Numerous mining engineering graduates work at the mine, and at Marco Crane, both of which donate their time and resources to keep UA well stocked with giant rocks.

Hill came to UA in 2004 from his position of director of the Spokane Research Laboratory of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. After assisting in rescue and recovery operations in the aftermath of Idaho’s Sunshine Mine fire, which killed 91 people in 1972, he turned his focus to enhancing miner health and safety throughout the world.

Hill was Director of Technical Services at the Spokane Research Laboratory from 1978 to 1981. He also served as interim chief of the Mine Health and Safety Branch at the Bureau of Mines until 1996 when he became the first permanent director of the Spokane Research Laboratory.

He joined UA as a professor of professional practice with a joint appointment in the Department of Mining and Geological Engineering and the Community, Environment and Policy division in the College of Public Health.