U.S. ANNOUNCES RULE TO STRENGTHEN SAFETY IN THE NATION’S MINES

(The following is a reformatted version of a press release
issued by the U.S. Department of Labor and received via e-mail.
The release was confirmed by the sender.) 
Jan. 17, 2013 
MSHA to publish pattern of violations final rule 
ARLINGTON, Va. - Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis today
announced a final rule to strengthen safety in the nation’s most
dangerous mines. The rule, which revises the Mine Safety and
Health Administration’s pattern of violations regulation in 30
Code of Federal Regulations Part 104, has been submitted to the
Federal Register for publication. It will ensure that mine
operators monitor and address the most hazardous safety problems
in their mines. It also strengthens MSHA’s hand to respond to
dangerous mining conditions, and improve safety and health for
mining’s most important resource - the miner. 
“The tragedy at the Upper Big Branch Mine should not be
forgotten. It exacted a terrible toll on the nation, coal
miners’ families and coal companies. Over the last three years,
the Labor Department has undergone a serious and comprehensive
evaluation of mine safety practices, and that has led to reforms
to protect America’s miners. The rule we are announcing today
will hold mine operators accountable when they disregard life-saving safety measures,” Secretary Solis said. 
“This final rule represents one of MSHA’s highest priority
regulatory initiatives and one that addresses Congress’ intent
that this regulation encourage chronic violators to comply with
the Mine Act and MSHA’s health and safety standards,” said
Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and
health. “We think that this final rule will help prevent another
tragedy such as occurred at the Upper Big Branch Mine. It
promotes consistency in applying the POV notice as an
enforcement tool, provides for a more open and transparent
process, emphasizes operators’ responsibility to comply with
safety and health standards and monitor their own compliance,
and more effectively achieves the statutory intent of the Mine
Act.” 
Under the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977, MSHA is
required to issue a POV notice to any mine operator that
demonstrates a disregard for the health and safety of miners
through a pattern of significant and substantial violations. An
S&S violation is one that contributes to a safety or health
hazard that is reasonably likely to result in a reasonably
serious injury or illness. 
The POV final rule, which is also responsive to several
recommendations made by the Labor Department’s Office of the
Inspector General in a September 2010 report, strengthens MSHA’s
ability to deal with the nation’s most dangerous, troubling
mines and mine operators. It places the agency in a better
position to identify operators that demonstrate a disregard for
the health and safety of miners and have not responded to other
enforcement measures. 
“There has been recognition by many that the system has been
broken, with no mine being placed on POV status until 2011 - 33
years after the law went into effect,” said Main. “MSHA should
not be prevented from taking action to protect the lives of
miners for months, or even years, while we await the final
outcome of citations and orders that a mine operator can easily
contest. The new rule addresses those flaws.” 
The following are among the final rule’s major provisions: 
-Allows MSHA to issue a POV notice without first issuing a
potential POV notice. 
-Eliminates the existing requirement that MSHA can consider only
final orders in its POV review. 
-Establishes general criteria and procedures that MSHA will use
to identify mines with a pattern of S&S violations. 
-Reinforces mine operators’ responsibility for compliance with
MSHA safety and health standards and for monitoring their mines’
compliance. 
-Clarifies that MSHA will consider a mine operator’s effective
implementation of an MSHA-approved corrective action program as
a mitigating circumstance in its POV review, if the program
contains definitive benchmarks implemented prior to POV notice,
and the operator has reduced S&S violations. 
-Restates the statutory requirement that, for mines in POV
status, each S&S violation will result in a withdrawal order
until a complete inspection finds no S&S violations. 
“The primary purpose of the POV rule is the restoration of safe
and healthful conditions at noncompliant mines,” said Main. “The
final rule better achieves the goal of the Mine Act and the
intent of Congress.” 
In April 2011, MSHA launched an online monitoring tool that
enables mine operators, miners and the public to determine,
based on the most recent data available, how a specific mine
matches up with the criteria for a potential pattern of
violations. Under the final rule, the online tool will continue
to be available to measure compliance performance against POV
criteria. 
The POV rule is the third regulation MSHA has issued aimed at
preventing coal mine dust explosions, such as the one that
occurred at the Upper Big Branch Mine. MSHA issued a final rule
to improve rock dust standards on June 21, 2011, and a final
rule on underground coal mine examinations April 6, 2012. Both
of these rules were aimed at improving conditions that could
lead to such explosions. 
The rule announced today can be viewed at http://www.msha.gov. 
Contact:   Jesse Lawder
Phone:     202-693-4659
Email:     lawder.jesse@dol.gov 
(sgp) NY 
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