MAC: Mines and Communities

New Mine Safety Bills Cause Some Concern

Published by MAC on 2007-08-30
Source: Metal Bulletin

New mine safety bills cause some concern

Metal Bulletin, Washington

30th August 2007

A pair of mine safety bills are causing the steel industry some concern.

While primarily aimed at coal mining operations, the industry is concerned the bills could have a negative impact on companies operating iron ore mines. Both bills are expected to be taken up by Congress when it returns from summer recess in September.

"Debates are raging on which one's worse," one steel industry lobbyist said. "It's a tough call." The main complaints are that the bills are too onerous, are aimed at coal mines but would apply to much safer iron ore and other mining industries, and are basically unnecessary.

The first bill, called the Supplemental Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act (S-Miner), is intended to speed up the implementation of provisions in an already-passed 2006 bill. Among other things, the S-Miner would speed up the date by which mine operators have to install improved underground communication systems and refuge chambers, require the installation of underground gas and smoke monitoring systems, and require miners to be equipped with new personal dust monitors.

Another bill, the Miner Health Enhancement Act, requires the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) to adopt the Occupational Safety and Health Administration asbestos standard, utilize the hazard communication standard used under former President Clinton's administration and require MSHA to update the list of permissible exposure limits in the air contaminants standard to reflect the recommended exposure limits established by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. Rep. George Miller (D., Calif.), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, said the bills were necessary to "clean up years of neglect and backsliding by this administration and an industry that had become, by its own admission, overly complacent."

The National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association called the S-Miner Act premature. "Imposing another layer of regulation on an industry that already is highly regulated and has shown continued safety improvements at this time would create confusion and threaten further progress," Jennifer Joy Wilson, president and chief executive officer of the association, said in a statement.

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