March 2008

Congress decrees advanced technology in mines

Coal dust monitors and advanced-tracking technology are part of U.S. Congress' efforts to aid coal miners.

The mining and metals industry division of ISA notices that despite White House veto threats, the Democrat-controlled House passed sweeping U.S. mine safety legislation aimed at preventing future underground disasters similar to the one that took nine lives in August 2007 at Crandall Canyon mine in Utah. 

Dow Jones Newswires reported Republican and mining industry officials complained.

Congress and President George W. Bush demanded mine safety changes in 2006 after the Sago mine disaster, which killed 12 West Virginia miners. New legislation, they said, would imperil the safety changes already underway. 

Representatives voted 214-199 to pass the Supplementary Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act, also called S-MINER. 

The legislation would add safeguards to "retreat" mining, the type of mining that was being done at central Utah's Crandall Canyon. 

The bill would improve emergency response to mine sites and require coal mines to install advanced-tracking technology, Democrats said. Mine operators would be required to use new coal-dust monitors to reduce miners' exposure to coal dust, which causes black-lung disease.
The bill would give the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration subpoena authority; increase penalties for safety violations; place it completely in control of a rescue site, including communication with mining families; and create an ombudsman's office to handle miners' safety complaints. 

The bill also would allow for independent investigations when more than one miner dies in an accident.  U.S. coal mines saw 33 deaths in 2007, according to the Mine Safety and Health Administra-tion. That compares to 47 miners killed in 2006, 23 killed in 2005, and 28 killed in 2004.