Eustace Frederick

Mining Engineering
Class of 1952, BS

In the early 1900s, two Russian peasants under the Czar’s rule immigrated to the U.S. where they later met, fell in love, and married. They possessed strong work ethics and a desire to make sure their children received a good education. Eustace Frederick was one of their sons, and appreciated his parents’ ambitions.

He considered the medical profession but, in a sense, that saddened his father who told the young man that he could not afford to send him to school for eight years. Eustace’s father, who had only finished third grade, had a miner’s salary. His grandfather had also been a miner. So, when the young Frederick’s plans for becoming a doctor seemed inaccessible, he sought the advice of his high school principal. The mentor’s sage advice was for Eustace to study mining engineering where he “could make a difference in safety measures for folks like his father and grandfather.”

Eustace appreciated this wisdom and applied to Virginia Tech. His parents’ concern for the cost of his education became unfounded.

During the summer of 1948, the Virginia Tech football coaches asked Eustace to try out for the sport. Successful, he was awarded a four-year scholarship. When Eustace became a junior, he earned an additional salary of 90 cents a day through his ROTC membership. As Eustace modestly recalls his college days he says, “My one claim to fame at Virginia Tech was I was the only person to graduate in 1952 in four years as a football player.”

But today, he has many claims to fame. He spent the next 40 years with the same company, Consolidation Coal Company (now CONSOL), where his former principal would be proud of his achievements in mining safety. He worked his way up, becoming a vice president after 18 years. In 1978, he was promoted to Vice President and Assistant to the President and Chief Operating Officer. Two years later, he became the Senior Vice President of Mining for the Southern Appalachia Region, a position he retained until 1992. He remained a consultant to the mining industry until he became a member of the West Virginia legislature.

Throughout his career, he remembered his principal’s advice, keeping safety a top priority. For example, roof falls were a major cause of fatalities in coal mining. Mr. Frederick is credited with pioneering the efforts in the 1970s to develop the Automatic Temporary Roof Support System (ATRS), a means of supporting the mine roof using hydraulic-pressure jacks in low-coal mining. He then improved the ATRS to become part of the roof-bolting machine used in mining. The ATRS has saved many lives and prevented numerous injuries, according to Jack Holt, Vice President with CONSOL Energy.

Another hazard associated with operating underground mining equipment in low coal seams was the lack of any overhead protection on machinery due to physical constraints of the seam height. Although the mining industry recognized this hazard to the machinery operator, it was Mr. Frederick who made finding a solution a priority for his company. He led the efforts to retrofit a canopy for each specific type of machine, and it was his commitment to the project that made it a success, Holt recalls.

Mr. Frederick’s continual efforts resulted in more enhancements. Literally, due to his insistence, Holt says, hundreds of roof-bolt tests were performed in various types of roof strata. “As a result of the roof tests and experiments, the improvement in roof bolts and resin was remarkable,” Holt says. “Tensile strength was increased fourfold and new anchoring techniques were discovered.” Furthermore, his efforts produced the metacarpal glove for miners, designed to reduce the possibility for cuts and fractures, as well as minimize the need for amputations.

A major project initiated under Mr. Frederick’s leadership was the opening of CONSOL’s Buchanan No. 1 Mine in Buchanan County, Virginia, the most gaseous coal mine in the world. This mine extended some 1500 feet below the surface. Each ton of coal in place contained an average of 600 cubic feet of methane. Using a new technique, CONSOL removed the methane prior to the mining of the coal. The innovative practices allowed this operation to grow into the largest coal mine in Virginia, providing jobs for 425 employees. And with the volume of methane being vented into the atmosphere, CONOCO looked at commercializing the product. Mr. Frederick’s leadership in installing a pipeline led CONOCO to become Virginia’s largest gas producer, generating 140 million cubic feet per day, well over half the gas produced in the Commonwealth. This gas project employs an additional 600 area residents.

Consol Energy received the 2002 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Climate Protection Award for these efforts to capture the methane, and Mr. Frederick received the North American Coal Bed Methane Form Award for his vision and courage in pioneering improved safety. “Methane was always a huge concern and I worked 40 years in different and difficult conditions without ever having a major catastrophe,” Mr. Frederick recalls.

Although he retired in 1992, his concern for miners has never stopped. A fortuitous phone call in 1993 asking him to consider submitting his name for an unfilled term as a House of Delegates member in West Virginia led to his serving in political office for the past 11 years. He laughingly recalls that his wife was in Israel at the time of the inquiry from a Mercer County Democratic party leader, and he had to make a decision in three hours, leaving no time to consult with her. The Governor later appointed him, and the voters have continually re-elected him.

He quickly became the major sponsor of legislation to foster the development of a coal-bed methane/degasification bill, similar to legislation developed in Virginia. The result is another successful employment opportunity with several hundred people working in high-paying jobs, selling approximately 20 million cubic feet of methane daily. In 1994, he received the Professional Award for Mining Health, Safety and Research. In 1995 and in 2003, he assisted in the most significant Workers’ Compensation Reform in decades, enabling the Mountain State to pay some of its compensation debt, and assured that workers would receive their benefits as earned.

At Virginia Tech, Mr. Frederick has received the Distinguished Alumnus Award in Mining Engineering, the Department’s Burkhart Award, and the College’s Distinguished Service Award. He is a member of the College’s Committee of 100 and has served on the College’s Advisory Board.

Class of: 1952
Year Inducted into Academy: 2004

Eustace Frederick