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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Mine contracting firm relocates to Clay

The coal industry is so ingrained in the history of Webster County, we give little thought to how it all works anymore.

So the daily operations of S & L Industries may be a bit foreign, even to those who have worked in the mines or been part a mining family most of their lives.

“We are primarily underground contractors,” said office manager Bob Bridges. “We deal with anything from providing manpower to building seals to building overcasts and undercasts.”
In other words, if a mine operation needs a job done, but can’t divert its own workforce to the task, S & L steps in.
The company recently moved to Clay and set up offices in the empty building next to Clay One Stop on Hwy. 109. The move allows the company to be closer to southern Illinois, where much of their contracting business is needed these days.


“When I started here, almost all of our people, probably 75 percent, were Kentucky residents and were working in Kentucky mines,” Bridges said. “Now, probably 75 to 80 percent of our people are in Illinois. About 95 percent of our work is in Illinois.”

The operation’s main offices had been in Madisonville since it opened in January 2010, but as the coal industry in the state was increasingly affected by Environmental Protection Agency regulations, the shift in focus moved northwest across the Ohio River. S & L had considered moving its offices to Illinois, or at least to Sturgis, but settled on Clay, partly because of real estate availability, and partly in hopes coal in Kentucky will make a comeback in the next few years.



For the growing number of miners who find themselves out of work, S & L offers a way to stay connected to the industry. And they welcome anyone with the right qualifications.
“We require a resume, we don’t do applications,” said administrative assistant Kathy Stevens. “They have to bring a 5023, which shows they are up to date on their underground and-or surface training.”

The form is a requirement by the Mine Safety and Health Administration.
Stevens added that Kentucky residents must also provide their Kentucky mining credentials. Without the proper paperwork, contract workers will not be allowed to work in a Kentucky mine.

That paperwork can be sent to the office in a variety of ways, including by FAX or email. They can also bring them to the office where copies will be made for the company’s records.
While S & L typically finds themselves with a slower schedule over the winter months, this season has been different.

“We’ve had to lay off, a lot of times, before Christmas,” Stevens said. “But we haven’t really had to do that this year.”

As with any coal-related operation these days, though, contracting work is still a wait and see proposition. Some larger mines have chosen to use their own employees to complete tasks normally fulfilled by contracting companies.

The change in the energy industry environment has led S & L to branch out to more surface mine work, as well as other areas where manpower is the primary need.

Rickie Phillips, manager for the company’s Midwest division, has examined the possibility of establishing the company in the disaster recovery market.

“You have to be trained for it,” Bridges said. “We haven’t actually got into it yet, you have to get all your ducks in a row. Worse than not having work is doing work if you’re not prepared to do it right.”

Bridges said he doesn’t want to give anyone any false hope that S & L is branching into other areas, but he did say contract workers can always keep an eye on their operations in case they ever do.

“Anybody can send us a resume,” he said. “We’re not going to turn them down. But if we have something that will fit their resume, we’ll tell you.”

Bridges added that anyone interested in becoming a contract worker with S & L does not have to be exclusive to the company.

“You have to take care of yourself,” he said. “We’re not going to look down on you for taking a job. You’ve got to make a paycheck.”

The company is owned and was founded by Bob Sandidge and Scott Lawrence, both of whom came to contracting work from years of experience in the mining industry.

“Between them, they know everything there is to know about underground mining,” Bridges said.

The company can be reached online at www.sandl.industries or by phone at (270) 824-8408.

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