September 1, 2010
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Stone mining exempt from mine safety bill
By Tina Grady Barbaccia, News and Digital Editor
After another tragic coal mine explosion, the aggregates industry prepares for increased scrutiny despite its own increased safety record.
After intense lobbying to exclude surface and underground aggregates mines from the new mine safety and health legislation, the industry has dodged what the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association (NSSGA) says are “potentially devastating provisions that were designed to prevent reoccurrences of coal mine tragedies” such as those at Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia in April and the disasters at Sago and Alameda mines in recent years.
At a full House Education and Labor Committee markup of proposed mine safety legislation on July 21, surface and underground aggregates mines were excluded from H.R. 5663. The bill was originally introduced as the “Miner Safety and Health Act of 2010,” but is now known as the “Robert C. Byrd Miner Safety and Health Act of 2010.”
This legislation is “one giant step for aggregates,” NSSGA says. The association and a coalition of other non-coal mining industries had been covering Capitol Hill in an effort to prevent being included in what the organizations considered to be “wide-ranging” legislation that would increase penalties, make inadvertent violations of the act a felony, as well as mandate stringent new reporting requirements.
The constant struggle
The entire mining industry has always struggled with a negative image. But after the tragic Sago coal mine explosion and Aracoma Coal Alma No. 1 coal mine incident, both in 2006, and Utah and Indiana coal mine incidents in 2007, legislation and federal regulations have been rampant and mining has been brought more into the public eye.
In reaction to the Sago incident, The Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act of 2006 passed in May of that year in an effort to further protect the safety and heath of the nation’s mine workers. However, coal mining and aggregate mining are very different, NSSGA notes, and sometimes the various types of mining aren’t differentiated and a “one-size-fits-all” mentality unintentionally creates unnecessary and unfair burdens on the regulated community. This was a major concern after the Sago incident because the construction aggregates industry is subject to the federal Mine Safety and Health Act, which has an extensive set of regulatory requirements.
The final version of the bill mostly applied to the coal industry. However, says NSSGA, the legislation codified provisions that were applicable to all mining sectors — such as the Mine Safety and Health Administration’s (MSHA) 15-minute emergency notification requirement when an incident or accident poses a reasonable risk of death; increased penalties, including a minimum $2,000 fine for Section 104 (d) (1) violation; and the increase of the civil fine for “flagrant” violations to a maximum $220,000.
Despite safety improvements in the aggregates mining sector, regulation has continued after mining tragedies regardless of the mining industry sector. In 2008, the House passed supplemental mine safety legislation (S-MINER) in response to the 2007 coal mine incidents. The aggregates industry, particularly NSSGA, vehemently opposed the legislation because it was geared toward the coal mining industry. (Go to http://www.bit.ly/NSSGApaper to see NSSGA’s Public Policy Position Paper on S-MINER. Go to www.aggman.com, click on Digital Edition, and go to the May 2010 AggBeat archive for a story about the coal incidents’ impact on the aggregates industry.)
Shortly after the Upper Big Branch Mine incident, Springfield Underground President and NSSGA Chairman Louis Griesemer said that he was concerned that Congress would pass broader legislation that would adversely impact the aggregates industry, despite the fact that it was “already seeing increases in safety and not being recognized for the good job we’re doing.” Griesemer also agreed that the legislation developed after increased violations and several coal mine incidents was too wide in scope: that the focus should be on coal mines not on aggregate operations.
“We think it’s not appropriate for our industry because we don’t think we’re the problem,” Griesemer told WY3-News in Springfield, Mo. (http://www.bit.ly/SpringfieldUndergroundKY3). “The type of material we’re extracting does not produce explosive gases like methane. The structure of limestone mines is a lot stronger and we’re not as deep as a coal mine.”
Knife River CEO: ‘A need for real jobs meeting
National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association (NSSGA) Chairman Bill Schneider, president and CEO of Knife River Corp., testified July 27 before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on the status of the stimulus and impacts on the aggregate industry. Schneider told the committee that, since passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, his company has been awarded nearly $200 million in stimulus projects throughout its 17-state operation, NSSGA’s eDigest & Washington Watch reports.
What’s more, Schneider said that Knife River’s current backlog is 20 percent stimulus funded. He cautioned, however, that the industry is “headed back to square one and wondering what our future holds,” according to the report. If Congress doesn’t pass a six-year highway bill soon, Schneider pointed out that construction job losses will skyrocket in an industry sector that already has an unemployment rate of more than 20 percent.
In Schneider’s testimony, he told Congress that the biggest issue right now is increasing revenue flow necessary for future funding. “With the overall condition of our economy, the biggest question is: Where will the money come from?” he asked.
“The United States already has the system in place — the Federal Highway Trust Fund,” he continued. “It needs to be restored to the strength it once had, and more money needs to be pumped into it to keep up with growing demands. It is difficult to consider raising the federal gas user fees, but many of us in the industry believe it may be our only answer at this point to fund highway projects that are in serious need. As noted in the previous research, American taxpayers would support it if it meant safe, efficient highways.
“I urge you to gather support for a long-term highway funding and multiyear authorization bill and make it a priority in Congress. Passing this bill, means you are essentially passing a jobs bill, putting thousands, perhaps millions, of Americans back to work not only in the construction industry but also in the many other supportive industries.
“Supporting a well-funded multiyear authorization bill which includes capacity expansion also benefits millions of Americans who depend on safe driving surfaces. There is a need for real jobs meeting real needs to provide American taxpayers real value.”
MSHA publishes excavator guidance
On July 13, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) published a new bulletin, Program Information Bulletin No. P10-09, regarding safety measures to be taken while operating excavators.
MSHA notes that it is “particularly concerned with preventing excavator accidents by implementing proper protective measures.” It suggests a minimum bench width of 25 feet, noting a work area examination is necessary to determine if this width is sufficient.
Other guidance includes the following: equipping excavators with appropriate length booms, dippers, and other related attachments to ensure the excavator and its operator remain as far from the high wall base as possible during scaling operations; and utilizing rock deflectors or similar attachments to protect the excavator from falling material. Finally, MSHA suggests that operators contact their OEMs regarding the availability of ROPs and FOPs structures for retrofitting existing equipment.
To view the bulletin, go to
Aggregates Manager, Randall Reilly, honored with AZBEE Awards
The American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE) has honored Randall-Reilly Publishing Company’s Aggregates Manager with two awards for this year’s Azbee Awards of Excellence. Randall-Reilly publications won a combined 16 awards, including six awards for Better Roads, four awards for Commercial Carrier Journal (CCJ), and two each for Overdrive and Truckers News.
Aggregates Manager received two regional awards, one silver and one bronze, honoring both editorial and design work. In 2009, Aggregates Manager won four regional awards. The Azbee Awards of Excellence is a peer-judged contest that honors the top b2b publications in various categories.
Therese Dunphy, editor-in-chief of Aggregates Manager, says the magazine has been consistently recognized by ASBPE and other organizations, showing that hard work has paid off. “Thirteen will be a lucky number for the magazine,” Dunphy says. “During the last five years, the magazine’s editors, columnists, and graphic designers have won more than a dozen awards from such prestigious groups as the American Society of Business Publication Editors and the American Business Media. It’s an honor to garner such consistent recognition. We strive to highlight critical industry trends in an engaging and informative manner. We sincerely appreciate the recognition of that effort.”
Joe Donald, publisher of Aggregates Manager and Better Roads, says of the accomplishments: “We are proud and honored to be recognized by ASBPE. We look forward to continuing to work hard to serve our industries.”