Friday, October 15, 2010

Chilean mine rescue could offer lessons for U.S. regulators

In the wake of the rescue of the Chilean miners, the U.S. mining industry should ask itself what it can do to improve mine disaster response, writes the country's leading coal reporter. In March, Ken Ward Jr. of The Charleston Gazette reported "fewer than one of every 10 underground coal mines in the United States has added improved communications and tracking equipment that could help miners escape an explosion or fire" in the four years since the Sago Mine disaster. Since then we've learned emergency response at Upper Big Branch didn't go as smoothly as it could have, Ward writes.

"Regulatory agencies and politicians — and we in the media — tend to respond to emergencies, and to focus only on the crisis at hand," Ward writes on his Coal Tattoo blog. He notes the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration's focus on preventing mine disasters, and thus the need for mine rescues, is the proper one, but advocates for further examination of the mine rescue process. "Legislation to further reform coal-mine safety in this country appears stalled for now…but in the meanwhile, why don’t Democratic congressional leaders hold hearings just to check in on the MINER Act’s mine rescue provisions?" Ward writes. "Even with a Democrat in the White House and a UMWA safety director running MSHA, don’t members of Congress have a responsibility to perform some stronger oversight in this area?" (Read more)

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