UCMSRC formally commenced with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on September 24, 1998 for a nominal two year period. The MOU was signed by Canadian underground coal mining industry stakeholders and expired as of September 30, 2000. Progess was assessed in September 2000, September 2001 and again in September 2002 and in each case there was strong support to continue UCMSRC. The current MOU (MOU-4) expires on September 30, 2003 whereby another decision will be made whether to continue for another year. Approval for the continuation of UCMSRC was also obtained from the Director of MMSL/CANMET.
The UCMSRC web site continues to be hosted on the Natural Resources Canada (CANMET) main server in Ottawa. Access is by username/password only, in order not to violate departmental rules and regulations as they pertain to simultaneous translations in French and web page formats. A "non-secure" web site has been set up to host that part of the UCMSRC site which can be made available to the general public.
UCMSRC still retains the flexibility to develop further projects as the need arises, primarily through the Technical Forum meetings. The medium-to-long-term outlook for underground coal mining in Canada however is uncertain following both the recent market downturn and the evolving pressures on internal organization and ownership. The closure of Phalen Colliery, Smoky River Coal Limited and then the last Devco mine - Prince Colliery has put increased pressures on UCMSRC.
In some ways the downsizing and uncertainty strengthen the need for closer communication and cooperation between the remaining underground coal mines and other stakeholders. The increasing challenges must stimulate the participants of UCMSRC to choose the most appropriate projects and to bring them to timely and successful conclusions.