One of the early findings in the Experimental Mine demonstrated that coal dust by itself was capable of propagating an explosion even in the absence of any methane gas. This demonstration was contrary to the old belief widely held at the time that coal dust could not explode without gas. This view had led to the very dangerous and widespread practice of using loose coal dust in mines to pack explosives in boreholes, which had cost many thousands of lives. These early experiments clearly proved that such a practice was too hazardous to continue.
By 1999 the complex made the transition to lab and office space as part of the National Energy Technology Laboratory network throughout the United States. The complex is home to three major agencies including the Federal Energy Technology Center (U.S. Department of Energy), the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control), and the Mine Safety & Health Administration (U.S. Department of Labor). Over one thousand government and contractor employees worked at the site by 2000.