John R. Correll
Deputy Assistant Secretary - Operations
of Labor for Mine Safety and Health
Thank you for that kind introduction, and thank you for inviting me to address this group today. I am delighted to be here with you to continue the close and valuable cooperation between our two countries on mine rescue and mine safety and health issues.
We have been working together for two years, since we signed our four-year agreement in October 2002. I know it has been a productive relationship for both of us. I also know that the next two years will be equally as productive and beneficial for mine safety and health in China.
And we have exchanged many visits over the last two years, including last summer's visit by U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao and Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health Dave Lauriski. I enjoyed tremendously my visit to China in 2003 and I look forward to another great visit this time.
I am grateful for Director General Bai Ran and Madam Su Chuanrong's efforts to organize this symposium as well as manage the US-China mine safety cooperation project. Director General Bai provided leadership to the implementation of the project; and he is ably assisted by Madam Su, who once spent six months training at the MSAH Beckley Academy. I think we have the finest mine safety academy in Beckley, and spending six months there is no small achievement.
It has also been a pleasure for the U.S. to host several groups of visitors from China's mining sector for mine visits and for tours of our national mine safety and health training academy. "
We were honored to host Administrator Wang Xianzheng in May of this year and Director General Lin Yisheng in the fall. Deputy Administrator Zhao, we look forward to hosting you in the near future.
I would also like to acknowledge Director General Wang Zhijian and Deputy Director General Gao Guangwei who are with us here today. I had the pleasure of meeting both of them during their previous visits to China. We look forward to more visits from China's mining sector and additional opportunities for cooperation.
I would also like to congratulate the National Center for International Exchange and Cooperation and the National Safety Council, whose efforts in the past several months succeeded in bringing to this symposium so of the finest minds in the world on mine rescue. I understand both Chinese and American experts will work together in the coming two days to develop a set of recommendation to SAWS regarding the establishment of a national emergency rescue system. I wish you success.
Mining is critical to the economies both China and the U.S. Our nations are the world's largest producers of coal, and both of our nations produce a wide variety of other important minerals. I know that we share similar goals on mine safety and health issues. The mine safety laws in China are a testament to China's commitment to protecting and promoting the health and safety of the country's miners.
And we want to help China protect the health and safety of its miners. As you know, there have recently been a number of tragic mining accidents in China that have resulted in a lloss of lives. We want to extend our deepest sympathies to the families and friends of the recent victims, and say that we understand the distress you must feel in SAWS over these tragedies.
We in the United States have unfortunately had those same sad experiences in our mining industry in the past. As a result of those disasters, the United States made deep and strong commitments to ensuring the health and safety of our nation's miners, and we have succeeded. We in fact are on track for another record year in the low numbers of fatalities and injuries we have experienced in the mining industry in the United States. 2004 will mark the fourth consecutive year of record improvement.
We want to help the Chinese mining industry to succeed here in China. We know you have the desire and the will to do that. We will do all we can to share with you the tools and the expertise to reduce and eliminate injuries and fatalities in your mining industry.
We are making great progress in sharing our expertise with you on mine rescue, as evidenced by the efforts you have made to host this very important symposium. We are looking forward to helping China fulfill its goal of providing Chinese miners with world-class mine rescue capabilities.
In 1981, specific regulations were published by MSHA to assure that all underground mines have mine rescue teams available to them in the event of an emergency. The costs for maintaining those teams are the responsibility of mine owners.
Those regulations contain very specific requirements for the teams: how many team members each team should have, what equipment they should have readily available, and how the equipment was to be stored and maintained. In addition, the regulations specified requirements for an emergency notification plan, what physical standards and other qualifications team members must meet to be eligible for team membership, and minimum standards for the amount and type of training required of team members.
The law requiring mine rescue teams and the regulations governing them have helped the United States build a significant body of experience and expertise in mine rescue - and we are delighted to be able to share that with China as well as other countries who are committed to the safety and health of their mining communities.
But we learned that mine rescue was not enough. Prevention is really where the mining industry is focused in the United States. When we stop accidents before they happen, we can focus more on building productive mines and keeping our valuable employees safe.
Looking at the future of our cooperation on mine safety, I believe we also want to work together to building up a two-pronged approach to mine safety and health that has worked very well for us in the United States. While we are working closely with you on mine rescue to ensure that you can safely bring miners out of mines in which there have been disasters we believe that the best way to keep miners safe and healthy is to work on preventing accidents and disasters from happening in the first place.
And as I mentioned before, China and the United States are the world's largest coal producers. While much of the coal mined in China is consumed in there, I know China is moving toward increasing production to export coal. Safe mining practices will result in more coal production. Safe, healthy and happy workers will produce more coal. If China is to become a competitive supplier of coal in the world marketplace, it must first ensure that its miners are as productive - meaning as safe and health - as they can possibly be. Investing in prevention, investing in the safety and health of your miners as we have done in the United States, will reap China's mining industry significant profits indeed. And it is the right thing to do.
Once again, I thank you for your time and attention today. I am delighted to be here, and am looking forward to a mutually interesting and beneficial visit. Thank you.