by Mike Miller, CEO Original Sixteen to One Mine
Mine worker safety practices locally and nationwide were recognized in a recent statistical release. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) said 36 miners (19 in coal and 17 in metal/nonmetal mining) died in work-related accidents at the nation’s mines in 2012, the second lowest annual fatality total on record. Last year, three of the miners killed at metal/nonmetal mines had less than one year of experience at the mine, while five miners had less than one year or less experience at the job or task they were performing. In metals/nonmetals mining six miners died in powered haulage accidents, while three miners died in machinery accidents. Three miners died in fall of person accidents, and two died as a result of falling material. Four (24%) of the 17 fatalities were contractors, while four (24%) were supervisors.
Our industry has exceeded a reduction in fatalities in such dangerous pursuits as skiing and snowboarding, bicycling and swimming. There were more reported deaths in each of these activities than in mining. Of course if governments continue to pursue with unreasonable requirements and regulations their intrusions into gold mining, injuries and deaths will continue to decrease since fewer and fewer men and women will be mining.
Analyzing the factors that affect this splendid report will be left for others. Congratulations to America’s mine operators, its miners, the technological improvements in equipment and tools and of course the safety regulators. MSHA, the federal primary safety agency, is a positive factor in lowering fatalities; however its reach into the gold mining activities in most of California has created a negative atmosphere that is destructive to the very intent of Congress (according to the law that established the agency in 1977). Congress is unlikely to take up the subject due to its troubles with so many issues that affect the country. We miners are not a large group of activists and all the small operations do not have the cash to spread in Congress for its attention.
Every civilization rests on a set of promises. If the promises are broken too often, the civilization dies, no matter how rich it may be or how mechanically clever. Hope and faith depend on promises; if hope and faith go, everything goes. Congress promises to protect those mines and miners that affect commerce. Congress was responding to the industry as it existed prior to the new law of 1977. Congress intended the regulations to be broadly written and fairly enforced. MSHA no longer enforces the law as intended. It has shut down too many gold miners from taking a chance in mining. This reduced level of activity hurts America as well as those in the industry. MSHA has broken the promises of its maker, the United States Senate, House of Representatives and President. It has the power already within its agency to interpret its founding law as it was meant to be interpreted. This is the 21st Century and time to help the small miner.