|Mine Safety Position|
The members of the Industrial Minerals Association – North America (IMA-NA) are devoted to the protection of those who work in our mines and production facilities. We commend all those who seek to drive fatality and injury rates to zero, including the U.S. Congress, employees at the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), other policy makers, unions, mine communities and families, mine management, health and safety professionals, the media, and the miners themselves. There is absolutely nothing more important than sending miners home safely at the end of each day, and we sincerely believe this to be the principal goal of all those who advocate for mine safety initiatives.
We acknowledge also that there have been recent preventable tragedies in some sectors of the mining industry that only stand to highlight the need for continued vigilance. However, it is our strong belief that the latest legislative effort in the previous two sessions of Congress was misguided, inappropriately placed emphasis on punitive measures and would not have contributed to improved mine safety. The mining industry has made considerable advancements in the development of safe processes and controls, and any legislative effort to improve safety should recognize the level of sophistication in modern mine safety management.
The overall safety performance of the mining industry may be a surprise to some. For instance, between 2002 and 2009, the fatality rate decreased by 49%, and the total injury rate decreased by 32%. Further, the mining industry compares quite favorably to other business and industrial sectors. In 2009, the total injury rate was 3.2 for the mining industry as a whole (based on the number of injuries per 200,000 hours worked). This rate is half that of many other business and industrial sectors. In fact, our injury rates are below the 3.9 average for business and industry as a whole, and below that of state and local government rates. This performance is in need of celebration and duplication, not additional regulation.
It is our firm belief that the mining industry is not in need of regulatory reform, and that MSHA already has the regulatory authority it needs to compel compliance with the law by recalcitrant operators. This has been demonstrated recently by MSHA’s utilization of its injunctive relief authority and its decision finally to begin placing mines that do not take seriously their obligations to protect miners on "pattern of violation” status.
It is important to note that not all mining is the same. The nonmetal segment of the mining industry simply does not present the same degree of hazard as other sectors. No fatality is acceptable, but we note with concern that the coal sector fatality rate between 2003 and 2009 on average was about five times greater than that of the nonmetal sector. To maximize advances toward our common objective of safe and healthy miners, the focus of any reform, legislative or otherwise, must focus on what is needed most and where the greatest benefit can be realized. The same easily can be said of enforcement and compliance assistance efforts.
The IMA-NA urges the 113th Congress to reconsider the punitive approach to the improvement of mine safety, direct any reform toward recalcitrant operators, and focus efforts on cooperative partnerships where the good in all parties dedicated to mine safety can lead us closer to zero injuries and fatalities in an industry that is vital to the American economy.