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DOL/MSHA News Release No. 03-34
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Contact: Rodney Brown
Phone: (202) 693-9400

Released Friday, January 24, 2003

Federal Mine Agency Strengthens Oversight and Accountability Systems
Publishes Internal Review on Alabama Mine Explosions


BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - The Mine Safety and Health Administration is correcting weaknesses in its management system following an internal review into the agency's actions prior to the September 2001 mine explosions at Jim Walter Resources No. 5 Mine near Brookwood, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health Dave D. Lauriski announced today.

"The purpose of an internal review is to examine MSHA's internal management system, to determine how the agency can do a better job," Lauriski said. "A better-managed agency translates to improved safety and health in the mining industry. Our aim is to make safety a value throughout the mining industry. In short, we want every miner to go home safe and healthy at the end of every shift."

Lauriski said that as a result of the review, MSHA is strengthening its management accountability system nationwide. "The existing system for accountability reviews focused on administrative evaluations and lacks follow-up measures," Lauriski said. "The new system will streamline the process so that corrective actions prompted by our reviews will be made quickly and efficiently. The focus of all our work is to enhance miner safety and health, and taking this step will allow us to measure ourselves on a regular basis."

Lauriski said that other steps that have been taken or are being taken as a result of the internal review include:

"As a result of our investigation into what happened at Jim Walter No. 5, we issued an emergency temporary standard to improve response to emergencies in all underground coal mines," Lauriski said. "The result of the emergency temporary standard will be additional, lasting improvements in miner safety. We need to take that same kind of step in our own management process. This review and the corrective actions taken will provide the base for that step -- a step that leads to enhanced miner health and safety."

On Sept. 23, 2001, a double explosion claimed 13 lives at Jim Walter Resources' No. 5 Mine. MSHA investigators determined that the explosions resulted from Jim Walter Resources' failure to follow federal safety standards. They also found that most of the victims were in harm's way because of poor emergency management.

Associated Links:

  • Statement by Dave D. Lauriski, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health
              Concerning Release of the Internal Review Report - Jim Walter No. 5 Mine Explosions - January 24, 2003


  • Internal Review of MSHA's Actions at the No. 5 Mine - Jim Walter Resources, Inc.
              Brookwood, Tuscaloosa County, Alabama (PDF)