August 18, 2022 
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Correspondence from the President of OAU

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 By Michael Miller

07/06/2022  12:23PM

Ed Metz passed peacefully this morning.

Ed brought knowledge, dignity, and honesty in addition to his five star gold collection to Alleghany. During a lull inside the museum, Ed spent more than an hour telling me about his specimens. What a treat.

Thank you, Ed, and your family for opening yourself and sharing your eclectic collection with the people. Your passion and love of that mysterious element named gold lives on with all who met you here in Alleghany.
 By Michael Miller

01/14/2022  3:59PM

Most of you likely read or heard about the biggest cold front to engulf Northern California. Over 30,000 were without power.

Alleghany was out 16 days in all. The office shut. Home life was also difficult for most all of us.

Nevada County and Sierra County resembled the look of an southern hurricane weather front. Trees and branches overpowered the crews. Our crew worked when possible on the mine roads and equipment. Without power the pumps stopped.

The two hardest hit spots at the mine are from snow building up or roofs then sliding onto the roadway. It was at least ten feet in three locations. My house deck had snow about five feet high. That’s California . Even though everyone prepares for winter, few if any were prepared for this.

Sunny weather predicted as we move forward.
 By Michael Miller

10/05/2021  9:38AM

One of America’s most dangerous workers industries is mining. Underground mining and surface mining have different risks to the miner. In fact, every mine poses its own list of hazards. Congress formed MSHA and declared that ”the first priority and concern of all in the coal and other mining industry must be the health and safety of its most precious resource—the miner.”

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) said yesterday that existing mine worker protections are strong enough that the agency won’t require COVID-19 vaccinations or weekly testing.

President Biden announced earlier this month that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, a separate Labor Department bureau, was developing an emergency rule that would force employers with 100 or more employees to establish vaccine mandates or alternative weekly testing requirements.

But that emergency temporary standard (ETS) doesn’t apply to MSHA or any mining operations, said Jeannette Galanis, the agency’s deputy assistant secretary, in a conference call yesterday.

“We have worked with the secretary’s office as well as the White House on trying to figure out if an ETS on vaccines should be issued by MSHA. And we have concluded that there should not be an ETS issued by MSHA,” Galanis said.

She added that the Mine Act is one of the world’s strongest worker protection laws, allowing MSHA to take enforcement measures unavailable to OSHA.
“If we find that a mine is [in] a situation where they are spreading COVID, we are able to temporarily shut them down. That’s very different than the OSHA Act,” Galanis said.

MSHA has been reluctant to create any emergency standard to protect miners from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. In March, a year after the pandemic began, MSHA published voluntary guidance for workers and mine operators (E&E News PM, March 10).

The United Mine Workers of America labor union, which represents coal miners, declined to comment on MSHA’s decision not to issue a COVID-19 vaccine standard. The United Steelworkers, which also represents miners, did not return a request for comment.
MSHA’s focus remains on reducing the number of mine worker fatalities, Galanis said. Twenty-seven miners have died on the job this year in the United States; 29 miners died at work in 2020.

The most common cause of death has been accidents involving vehicles like surface trucks and locomotives. MSHA proposed a rule this month aimed at preventing those types of accidents (Greenwire, Sept. 8).
The agency is drafting a rule to curb levels of silica in mines. Black lung disease has been on the rise among underground coal miners. The Labor Department’s inspector general has said silica — a carcinogenic component of coal dust -—may be responsible for the uptick (Greenwire, Nov. 17, 2020).
Galanis didn’t give a timetable for the rule-making process but said the rule “is a top priority of this agency.”

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