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Mine Safety

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This article is part of the Coal Issues portal on SourceWatch, a project of CoalSwarm and the Center for Media and Democracy. See here for help on adding material to CoalSwarm.

Mine safety involves the dangers that coal miners are exposed to, from chronic exposure to coal dust and other airborne particles to the risks from coal mining disasters, such as mine explosions and collapses.

Health effects on coal miners

Black Lung

Chronic exposure to the coal dust stirred up during mining can lead to black lung disease, or pneumoconiosis. It is a common affliction of coal miners and others who work with coal, similar to both silicosis (from inhaling silica dust) and to the long-term effects of tobacco smoking. Inhaled coal dust progressively builds up in the lungs and is unable to be removed by the body; that leads to inflammation, fibrosis, and in the worst case, necrosis, or the premature death of cells and living tissue.[1]

Federal U.S. regulations of coal dust did not exist until In the Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969, in which the U.S. Congress set up standards to reduce dust and the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund (BLDTF), which pays health benefits to coal miners afflicted with black lung. A miner who spent 25 years in underground coal mines has a 5-10% risk of contracting the disease.[2]

BLDTF was instituted in 1978, and is funded through an excise tax on coal to support a trust fund covering health costs of affected workers. However the tax is not sufficient to cover all costs, and the BLDTF was given “indefinite authority to borrow” from the U.S. General Fund. By the end of FY 2008, the BLDTF had accrued nearly $13 billion in debt. In 2008, Congress partially “bailed out” the BLDTF.[3]

Black lung took the lives of 10,000 miners worldwide over the last decade.[4] Rates of black lung are on the rise, and have almost doubled in the last 10 years. The US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reported that close to 9 percent of miners with 25 years or more experience tested positive for black lung in 2005-2006, compared with 4 percent in the late 1990s.[1]

Industrial Bronchitis

Miners can also suffer other serious, long-term respiratory ailments: industrial bronchitis is very common among coal workers. In nonsmokers (who are less prone to develop bronchitis than smokers), studies of coal miners have shown a 16%[5] to 17%[6] incidence of industrial bronchitis.

Carbon Monoxide

Miners are also at risk from the release of carbon monoxide (CO) from explosives, which is widely used in mountaintop removal mining.[7]

Coal Mining Disasters

Mining disasters can have a variety of causes, including leaks of poisonous gases such as hydrogen sulphide[8] or explosive natural gases especially firedamp or methane,[9] coal dust dust explosions, collapsing of mine stopes, mining-induced seismicity[10], flooding, or general mechanical errors from improperly used or malfunctioning mining equipment.[11]

Disasters within the U.S.

Fossil fuel deaths and injuries.jpg

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), there have been 622 coal mining accidents that resulted in five or more fatalities from 1839 to 2007.[11]

Non-unionized mines have more fatalities: a report from the March 28, 2007, hearing on Protecting the Health and Safety of America's Mine Workers released by the House Committee on Education and Labor, found that less than one-fifth of coal mining fatalities occurred in union mines.[12] In the 1960s the United Mine Workers represented nearly 90 percent of the U.S.'s 400,000 mine workers, but in 2010 represented less than a third of the remaining 10,000 or so coal miners.[13] (see below for more on coal and unions).

Monongah Mining Disaster

The Monongah Mine Disaster of Monongah, West Virginia, took place on December 6, 1907. It claimed the lives of 362 men and boys and is known as the worst mining disaster in American History.[14][15]

The explosion was thought to have been caused by the ignition of methane, or "black damp." Thirteen days after the accident, an official Federal government report on mining accidents and deaths was released. The New York Times reported that the government document said the number of accidents due to mining explosions had steadily increased due to "lack of proper and enforceable mine regulations."[16]

With the loss of more than 1,000 workers from 1907-1909 in mining disasters, such as Monongah, the Progressive Movement pushed for governmental regulations to improve working conditions in the mines. Mine operators hoped to stave off this government regulatory control by the implementation of their own safety practices. However Congress was pressured in 1910 to establish the US Bureau of Mines, an agency of the Department of Interior, to further research mine safety problems and conduct mine inspections. The Bureau did help establish some safety standards, but had little enforcement power to correct infractions, a practice that has continued with the Mine Safety and Health Administration, which primarily issues low-cost fines for safety regulation violations.[16] (see below for more on U.S. coal mining regulations.)

Sago Mine Disaster

The Sago Mine Disaster was a coal mine explosion on January 2, 2006, in the International Coal Group's non-unionized Sago Mine in Sago, West Virginia. The blast and ensuing aftermath trapped 13 coal miners for nearly two days. Only one miner, Randal McCloy, survived. At the time, it was the worst mining disaster in the United States since the Jim Walter Resources Mine Disaster in Alabama on September 23, 2001 killed 13 people, and the worst disaster in West Virginia since the 1968 Farmington incident that killed 78 people.[17] [18]

In 2005, the mine had been cited by the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) 208 times for violating regulations, up from 68 in 2004. Of those, 96 were considered significant and substantial. Some of those citations were for violations that could have been factors in the accident, such as failure to control methane and coal-dust accumulation, failure to properly shore up shafts against collapse and overall deficiencies in emergency planning.[19]

Aracoma Alma Mine accident

The Aracoma Alma Mine accident occurred when a conveyor belt in the Aracoma Alma Mine No. 1 of the Logan County Complex at Melville, West Virginia caught fire. The conveyor belt ignited on the morning of January 19, 2006, pouring smoke through the gaps in the wall and into the fresh air passageway that the miners were supposed to use for their escape, obscuring their vision and ultimately leading to the death of two of them. The mine was owned by Massey Energy, and operated by its subsidiary Aracoma Coal Company. [20]

Investigators from the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and the West Virginia Office of Miners Health, Safety and Training (WVOMHST) found high quantities of combustible accumulations along belt conveyors, in some places up to the lower rollers of the belt. These accumulations "should have been identified and reported in the record books by examiners, and corrective actions should have been taken and documented, neither of which was done." Additionally, they found that if the wall sections had been in place, that would have prevented any exchange of air between the conveyor belt and the fresh air intake, the primary source of air for workers inside the mine. Instead smoke flooded into the air intake, which also serves as an escape route, disorienting two of the miners, who became lost and died in the fire.[20]

After a lawsuit was filed against Massey by the widows of the miners for, in part, "personally engendering a corporate attitude of indifference and hostility towards safety measures which stood in the way of profit,"[21] Aracoma pleaded guilty to 10 criminal charges for the 2006 fire. The company was fined $2.5 million and must also pay $1.7 million for violations cited by the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration. The plea deal included a provision preventing Massey and its officials from being prosecuted.[22]

Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster

On April 5, 2010, an explosion at Massey Energy's non-unionized Upper Big Branch Mine in Raleigh County, West Virginia killed 29 miners, with two hospitalized.[23] The mine had a history of MSHA safety violations, including as recently as 2010 for failing to control coal dust; improperly planning to ventilate the mine of dust and the combustible gas methane; inadequate protection from roof falls; failing to maintain proper escapeways; and allowing the accumulation of combustible materials.[4][24]

Despite the history of MSHA violations at the mine, a "talking points" memo circulated by MSHA during the week of the disaster stated that, "MSHA does not have the authority to permanently close or shut down a mine based upon a set number of violations, or any other criteria."[25]

Disasters in China

China currently has the largest number of coal-mining fatalities in any country, accounting for about 80% of the world’s total, although it produces only 35% of the world’s coal.[26] Between January 2001 to October 2004, there were 188 accidents that had a death toll of more than 10, about one death every 7.4 days.[26] According to official figures, at least 3,200 people died in China's mines in 2008.[27] The actual number could be even higher, as the Chinese government is suspected of covering up some accidents.[28] Most accidents are blamed on a failure to follow safety regulations, including adequate ventilation and available fire control equipment.[29] In 2009, China had the most mining accident fatalities in the world, with a total of 2,631 coal miners dying in accidents, according to an official figure released by State Administration of Work Safety,[30] which could be a conservative estimate.[28]

After the 2005 Sunjiawan mine disaster, which killed at least 210 miners, a meeting of the State Council was convened to work on measures to improve work safety in coal mines. The meeting's statement pointed out serious problems such as violation of safety standards and overproduction in some coal mines. Three billion yuan (36 million US dollars) were earmarked for technological renovation on work safety, gas management in particular, at state-owned major coal mines. The government also promised to send safety supervision teams to 45 coal mines with serious gas problems and invite colliery safety experts to evaluate safety situations in coal mines and formulate prevention measures.[31]

In 2006, according to the State Work Safety Supervision Administration, 4,749 Chinese coal miners were killed in thousands of blasts, floods, and other accidents. For example, a gas explosion at the Nanshan Colliery killed 24 people on November 13, 2006; the mine was operating without any safety license and the Xinhua News Agency claimed the cause was incorrect usage of explosives. However, the 2006 rate was 20.1% less than 2005 despite an 8.1% rise in production.[32]

Blast kills 77 in China's worst industrial accident in over a year

On February 22, 2009, a gas explosion at the Tunlan coal mine in northern China killed at least 77 miners and trapped dozens more. It was China's deadliest coal mine accident in more than a year.[33] As of February 25, rescuers were still searching for one more miner, who faced slim chances of survival. More than 350 people survived the explosion, including 114 who were still hospitalized.

A preliminary investigation into the cause of the blast cited negligence. The state probe found that poor ventilation and gas management, and the absence of on-site security measures and supervision were to blame for the disaster.[34] Three senior mine officials were fired, including the mine manager, chief safety officer, and chief engineer.[35]

On February 25, 2009, the governor of the northern province of Shanxi wept as he apologized for the disaster. Governor Wang Jun replaced the province's former governor after an unlicensed tailings dam at an iron ore mine collapsed in September 2008, killing 277 people.[36]

Coal mine flood kills 7 in northeast China

On April 4, 2009, about 4,000 cubic meters of water poured into the shaft of a mine in Heilongjiang Province, where 22 miners were working underground. Six miners escaped, and another four were rescued and taken to a nearby hospital. As of April 6, the death toll stood at seven, and rescue efforts were still ongoing. Officials said the mine was licensed, but that had not been authorized by safety inspectors and thus was operating. Police said they had detained the owner of the mine, which is reported to have an estimated yearly output of 40,000 tonnes.[37]

Miners trapped for 25 days in flooded mine

Three miners were rescued on July 12, 2009 after spending 25 days trapped in a flooded mine in Guizhou province in southern China. Rescuers burrowed through a collapsed tunnel to reach the miners, who said they had survived by drinking dirty water and eating coal. The flood trapped 16 miners on June 17. Rescuers had previously recovered one body and were still looking for the remaining 12 miners.[29][28]

Mine explosion kills more than 100

On November 21, 2009, a massive gas explosion at a coal mine in northeastern China killed at least 42 miners, with 66 more miners trapped about a third of a mile underground. By November 23, the death toll was at 104. The blast occurred while 528 miners were working underground in a state-owned mine in Hegang, in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang. About 400 miners were able to escape.[38][39]

Shanxi Province Coal Mine Flood

On March 28, 2010, an estimated 261 miners (some Chinese media suspected more) working in a coal mine in northern China’s Shanxi Province were trapped when water leaked into and flooded the underground mine shaft. The authorities claimed that 108 miners had been lifted out, and that 153 were still trapped in the flood. On April 5, one hundred and fifteen more miners were rescued, nine days after being trapped in the flooded coal mine, with another 38 miners still trapped underground. Chinese media reported that some of the miners who were rescued used their belts to fasten their bodies to the rock wall, and crawled further into the mine after being submerged in water for three days and three nights. They ate pine tree bark from construction wood poles and drank cold water to stay alive.[30]

Authorities were criticized for waiting until April 3, six days after miners were trapped, to make the first attempt to send rescuers into the pit to look for possible survivors.[30]

Miners and Unions

Large-scale coal mining developed during the Industrial Revolution, and coal provided the main source of primary energy for industry and transportation in the West from the 18th century to the 1950s. Being a miner in the 19th century meant long hours of continuous hard labor. For many workers, it was not unusual to be accustomed to long hours in the dark mines. Since miners were paid per ton of coal they produced each day workers would arrive as early as possible and stay till they physically were exhausted. Because of working in the mines, many health issues arose. One problem was that a majority of the areas being mined were on average 3–5 feet high. This meant that most miners worked all day without standing upright. Because a lot of the coal mines were hard to access by an average man, the demand for young boys to work in the mines grew. More inexperienced miners led to more accidents. Another health concern was the amount of dust that a miner breathed in each day, leading to black lung and other diseases.[40]

Safety was also a big concern, most coal companies wanted to produce the cheapest coal, so in return they would not update or replace old existing tools and carts. This led to miners becoming injured on a daily basis. However, most companies did not get into conflict over the deaths because miners would typically work alone or in pairs, meaning that an accident would only harm two people and not a large quantity. As mining became more of a demand, the workers started to understand that something could be done to improve the working conditions, and that something must be done soon before any more lives are lost. The health and safety concerns of miners in the early 19th century are what prompted the labor movements to begin.[40]

Miners also suffered economic hardship. They were often dependent upon the company store, a store that miners had to use because they were often paid could only in company scrip, redeemable at the store, which often charged higher prices than other stores. Many miner's homes were also owned by the mines. Although there were company towns that raised the prices of all goods and made eviction a constant threat, these conditions were not the norm for all coal towns. But for the towns that did use the currency to their advantage, mining families often faced hardships in living conditions.[40]

Formation of Unions

Early efforts at coal miner organizing to address safety and economic concerns in the 1800s had mixed results, due to the large power of companies over miners and their livelihoods. Union members were often fired and blacklisted from employment at other mines.[41]

As coal mines became more capital intensive over the course of the nineteenth century, the role of miners changed dramatically. Corporate reorganization and the introduction of expensive machinery eroded the traditional authority of the skilled miner. By the 1870s, many mining firms employed managers to supervise the pace of work, but kept the old system of paying mine laborers per ton rather than an hourly wage, which quickly became a source of discontent in coal mining regions. Miners responded to falling wages and the restructuring of mine labor by organizing into craft unions. The Workingmen's Benevolent Association (WBA) founded in Pennsylvania in 1868, united English, Irish, Scottish, and Welsh anthracite miners. The WBA won some concessions from coal companies until Franklin Gowen, acting president of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad, led a concerted effort to break the union in the winter of 1874-75. After the breaking of the WBA, most coal mining unions served to organize skilled workers in specific regions.[41]

Since 1890, coal mining safety and worker protections have been a political and social issue. Coal miners' labour and trade unions rose up in many countries in the 20th century due to both low wages and the lack of safety protections, making illness, deaths, and disasters common. Often coal miners were leaders of Workers and Progressive Movements (as in Britain, Germany, Poland, Japan, Canada and the U.S.)[42] [43] [44] [45][46]

United Mine Workers of America

In 1890, a national mining union appeared when delegates from across the United States formed the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA). The UMWA struggled to gain widespread acceptance until 1897, when widespread strikes pushed many workers into union membership. By 1903, the UMWA listed about a quarter of a million members, raised a treasury worth over one million dollars, and played a major role in industrial relations of the nation's coal industry.[41]

The Progressive Mine Workers (PMW) was organized in 1932 in down state Illinois. It was formed after United Mine Workers President John L. Lewis sided with coal operators and subverted a contract referendum which would have reduced a miner's daily wage from $6.10 to $5.00. Both UMW and PMW efforts to organize were often met with violence, such as shootings, beatings, and bombings.[47]

The unions were able to achieve collective bargaining rights in 1933, secure health and retirement benefits for the miners and their families in 1946, and push the United States Congress to enact the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act in 1969, which eventually provided some compensation for miners suffering from Black Lung Disease.[40]

By the 1960s, the United Mine Workers represented nearly 90 percent of the U.S.'s 400,000 mine workers, but in 2010 represented less than a third of the remaining 10,000 or so coal miners. Part of the decline has been attributed to attacks against unionized workers by coal companies, including Massey Energy's Don Blankenship.[13]

Massey Attack on U.S. Coal Unions

Don Blankenship: "Sell Coal Cheaper And Drive Union Coal Out of Business"

Massey Energy's Don Blankenship was a division manager for Massey in the mid-1980s and helped run a successful, aggressive campaign to destroy the union's role in the company's mines in Appalachia, reminiscent of the early days of coal mining when miners were harassed and intimidated from joining unions. According to truthout, the United Mine Workers tried three times to organize the Upper Big Branch mine, but even with getting nearly 70 percent of workers to sign cards saying they favored union membership, Blankenship personally met with workers to threaten them with closing down the mine and losing their jobs if they voted for a union.[13]

Massey, particularly under Blankenship, has actively worked to suppress union membership, preferring to pay legal fees than hire unionized mine workers.[48]In a 1986 film documenting his role in stopping striking miners at Massey operations in Appalachia (see video), Blankenship was frank about his goals to destroy unionization, in order to sell coal cheaper: "non-union competitors have a tremendous advantage and therefore they sell coal cheaper and drive union coal operations out of business."[49]

In 2008, Massey had 6,743 employees.[50] Of these, only 1.3% -- or approximately 87 -- were represented by the United Mine Workers of America. In a March 2010 prospectus, Massey stated that union members were "spread out amongst five of our coal preparation plants" which handled "approximately 15.8% of our coal production." However, the company states that the "collective bargaining agreements with the UMWA have expired" and that "there are no ongoing negotiations" at present.[51][52]

According to former Massey miner Chuck Nelson, not being part of a union "means that the worker, when he was told to do something, you cannot file a grievance. You had to more or less do what they say—what they tell you to do, or else they’ll tell you, 'Well, we have a man to replace you for the next day. You can just go home. You don’t need this job anymore.'”[53] A report from the March 28, 2007, hearing on Protecting the Health and Safety of America's Mine Workers released by the House Committee on Education and Labor, found that less than one-fifth of coal mining fatalities occurred in union mines.[54]

History of U.S. Coal Mining Regulations

In 1891, the United States Congress passed the first federal statute governing mine safety. The 1891 law was relatively modest legislation that applied only to mines in U.S. territories, and, among other things, established minimum ventilation requirements at underground coal mines and prohibited operators from employing children under 12 years of age.[55]

After the loss of more than 1000 workers from 1907-1909 in mining disasters, such as the Monongah Mining Disaster, the Progressive Movement pushed for governmental regulations to improve working conditions in the mines. Mine operators hoped to stave off this government regulatory control by the implementation of their own safety practices. However Congress was pressured in 1910 to establish the US Bureau of Mines, an agency of the Department of Interior, to further research mine safety problems and conduct mine inspections. The Bureau did help establish some safety standards, but had little enforcement power to correct infractions.[16] The Bureau was charged with the responsibility to conduct research and to reduce accidents in the coal mining industry, but was given no inspection authority until 1941, when Congress empowered federal inspectors to enter mines. In 1947, Congress authorized the formulation of the first code of federal regulations for mine safety.[55]

The Federal Coal Mine Safety Act of 1952 provided for annual inspections in certain underground coal mines, and gave the Bureau limited enforcement authority, including power to issue violation notices and imminent danger withdrawal orders. The 1952 Act also authorized the assessment of civil penalties against mine operators for noncompliance with withdrawal orders or for refusing to give inspectors access to mine property, although no provision was made for monetary penalties for noncompliance with the safety provisions. In 1966, Congress extended coverage of the 1952 Coal Act to all underground coal mines.[55]

The first federal statute directly regulating non-coal mines did not appear until the passage of the Federal Metal and Nonmetallic Mine Safety Act of 1966. The 1966 Act provided for the promulgation of standards, many of which were advisory, and for inspections and investigations; however, its enforcement authority was minimal.[55]

The Coal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1969, generally referred to as the Coal Act, was more comprehensive and had more enforcement power than previous federal legislation governing the mining industry. The Coal Act included surface as well as underground coal mines within its scope, required two annual inspections of every surface coal mine and four at every underground coal mine, and dramatically increased federal enforcement powers in coal mines. The Coal Act also required monetary penalties for all violations, albeit not large, and established criminal penalties for knowing and willful violations. The safety standards for all coal mines were strengthened, and health standards were adopted. The Coal Act included specific procedures for the development of improved mandatory health and safety standards, and provided compensation for miners who were totally and permanently disabled by the progressive respiratory disease caused by the inhalation of fine coal dust, known as pneumoconiosis, or "black lung".[55]

In 1973, the Secretary of the Interior, through administrative action, created the Mining Enforcement and Safety Administration (MESA) as a new departmental agency separate from the Bureau of Mines. MESA assumed the safety and health enforcement functions formerly carried out by the Bureau to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest between the enforcement of mine safety and health standards and the Bureau's responsibilities for mineral resource development. (MESA was the predecessor organization to MSHA, prior to March 9, 1978.)[55]

The Mine Safety and Health Administration

Congress passed the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977, the legislation which currently governs MSHA's activities. The Mine Act amended the 1969 Coal Act in a number of significant ways, and consolidated all federal health and safety regulations of the mining industry, coal as well as non-coal mining, under a single statutory scheme. The Mine Act strengthened and expanded the rights of miners, and enhanced the protection of miners from retaliation for exercising such rights. Mining fatalities dropped sharply under the Mine Act from 272 in 1977 to 22 year to date (July 17, 2007). The Mine Act also transferred responsibility for carrying out its mandates from the Department of the Interior to the Department of Labor, and named the new agency the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). Additionally, the Mine Act established the independent Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission to provide for independent review of the majority of MSHA's enforcement actions.[55]

The MSHA is an agency of the United States Department of Labor which administers the provisions of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 (Mine Act).[56] MSHA is divided into several subdivisions under the office of the assistant secretary for mine safety and health.[57]

MSHA and George W. Bush

During his terms, former President George W. Bush cut funding for mine safety enforcement by $15 million and replaced MSHA officials, such as Davitt McAteer, with representatives of corporate interests. In 2002, Bush named former Massey Energy official Stanley Suboleski to the MSHA review commission that decides all legal matters under the Federal Mine Act. David Lauriski, the former head of MSHA, spent 30 years as an executive in the mining industry before being tapped to head the agency, and resigned in 2005 to work for a mine-industry consulting company. The next head of MSHA Richard Stickler, appointed by Bush in September 2006, was a former manager of Beth Energy mines. The Bush administration also cut 170 positions from MSHA.[58]

MINER Act

In 2006, federal regulators moved to overhaul mine safety laws for the first time in over three decades with Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act of 2006, also known as the MINER Act. The Act was partly in response to the deaths of 19 miners in a series of accidents in West Virginia and Kentucky, including the Aracoma mine that brought criminal charges against a subsidiary of Massey.[59]

Defeat of the S-MINER Act

In June of 2007, Rep. George Miller (D-CA), the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee that oversees the MSHA, introduced the Supplemental Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act (S-MINER) Act, which would have supplemented existing mining provisions in the Federal Mine Act to require: "(1) emergency response plans to incorporate new technology; (2) the Secretary of Labor to require the installation of rescue chambers in underground coal mines; and (3) accident response plans to provide for the maintenance of refuges." The House Committee on Education and Labor issued a report stating: "The S-MINER Act aims to prevent disasters and, in cases where disasters do occur, to improve emergency response. It also aims to reduce long-term health risks facing miners, such as black lung." Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) explained the bill was necessary because the 2006 MINER Act provisions had not been effectively enforced: "“So far, I am concerned that the slow pace of reform is leaving America's miners at risk. We've made progress. But [the Mine Safety & Health Administration (MSHA)] has not moved aggressively to implement all of the provisions of the MINER Act."”[60]

Two months after introduction of the bill, six miners died in the Crandall Canyon mining disaster in Utah. Regardless, the mining industry continued to oppose the bill. Vice President for Safety, Health and Human Resources of the National Mining Association, which had initially supported the reforms,[61] testified before the committee that the "additional layers of statutory requirements at this time will undermine the progress that has been made on miner training and other vital objectives of the act. It is premature to consider imposing further legislation before the full impact of the original MINER Act can be comprehensively evaluated." Further opposition cited concerns about energy independence and job losses, such as Congressman Don Young of Alaska who argued, "If this bill was to become law, mines will be shut down. They will be shut down." The Bush Administration also strongly opposed the bill, claiming that "the regulatory mandates in the S-MINER bill would weaken several existing regulations and overturn regulatory processes that were required by the MINER Act and are ongoing."[60]

The House passed the S-MINER Act in January 2008 but the bill died in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. The HELP Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety, chaired by Sen. Murray, met to consider the bill and only three members were present for the hearing. No further action was taken on the bill. For the House vote, 25 House Democrats and nearly all House Republicans voted against the bill. Analysis by maplight, based upon the Center for Responsive Politics' OpenSecrets Open Data found that, on average, House opponents received 103 percent more money from mining interests than House members voting Yes (an average of $12,526 to each member voting No, $6,174 to each voting Yes), while Democrats voting No received 197 percent more money from mining interests than their colleagues voting Yes (an average of $16,314 to each Democrat voting No, $5,489 to each voting Yes). Members of the Senate HELP Committee received 122 percent more from the mining interests than from the unions.[60]


Contact Details

Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA)
1100 Wilson Boulevard, 21st Floor
Arlington, VA 22209-3939
Phone: (202) 693-9400
Fax-on-demand: (202) 693-9401
Website: http://www.msha.gov/

Articles & resources

SourceWatch resources

References

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