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From the Assistant Secretary's Desk — Labor Day - August 30. 2013

Joseph A. Main - Assistant Secretary of Labor  for Mine Safety and Health As we approach this Labor Day holiday, we should all give due recognition to the mining industry's most precious resource -- the miner. These men and women truly are part of the backbone of the labor force – their daily efforts help fuel our economy and keep our great country moving forward.

All of us who play a part in securing the nation's miners their well-deserved safety and health should also pause and reflect on the work we do.

We all know that mining has long been considered a hazardous industry, an occupation that historically has been associated with high risk, injury, illness and death.

Over the years, much progress has been made to improve miners’ working conditions, and that progress continues to this day. This year we are celebrating the 35th anniversary of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977. In 1977, 273 miners lost their lives in mining accidents, the equivalent of one mining fatality and 66 injuries each day, and untold numbers of deaths from occupational diseases such as black lung. Since passage of the Mine Act, tremendous progress has been made. From 1977 through 2012, injury and fatality rates have dropped 73 percent and 83 percent, respectively.

The work we do every day is making a difference in miners’ lives and has led to the lowest fatal and injury rates in mining in both of the last two years.

Despite these accomplishments, we need to take stock of what remains to be done, so that miners have the opportunity to go to work and return home to their loved ones free of injury and illness at the end of each shift. They deserve nothing less.

This Labor Day, we should recommit ourselves to making miners’ workplaces safe and healthy, as was intended by the Mine Act.

Enjoy the holiday!