Mine Safety and Health Administration
2006 Metal and Nonmetal National Mine Rescue Contest
July 13, 2006
Thanks, Bob, for that kind introduction.
Good evening, everyone, and welcome here tonight. First off, I'd like to thank MSHA's Metal/Non-Metal Planning Committee for putting this competition together. They put in countless hours of work to organize this great contest and get all of you here, housed, fed and competing. I'd like to give them a hearty round of applause and a big thank-you right now.
And thanks to our own Metal/Non-Metal Mine Rescue Team for officiating here at the contest. Five of our own team will be competing at the International Mine Rescue Contest being hosted by China in September. I hope they picked up some good pointers from the company team competitors here!
The folks from our Mine Safety and Health Academy did a great job in capturing the highlights of the week on video, didn't they? Thanks for all your creativity and enthusiasm in recording the action - I know the participants appreciate your record of this week's events.
We have an amazing turnout this year -- there are 34 mine rescue teams here, representing mining companies in 12 states. A lot of miners and a lot of companies have made the commitment to mine rescue teams, and we're happy to see so many of you here tonight.
We also have some teams competing this year that weren't here for the 2004 competition, and I'd like to recognize them now:
- Barrick's Turquoise Ridge Mine Rescue Team,
- Carmeuse Black River Mine Rescue Team,
- Cargill's Cleveland Mine Rescue Team,
- Georgia Pacific's Blue Rapids Mine Rescue Team,
- Moly Corp's Questa Mine Rescue Team,
- Morton Salt's Fairport Mine Rescue Team,
- Newmont's Midis Mine Rescue Team,
- St. Lawrence Zinc's No. 4 Mine Rescue Team, and
- Stillwater's Stillwater Mine Rescue Team.
I am pleased to see that so many teams - and so many new teams -- have come not only to participate in this competition but to share ideas and experiences that could be called upon if needed. I have watched you during the competition, and am struck by how the spirit of teamwork and collaboration not only works among your own team members, but extends to other teams as well. And you know better than anyone, teamwork is essential for success. Thank you for your commitment, your dedication, and most of all, for your care and commitment to your fellow miners. And a hearty thank you to the management of each of your companies for recognizing not only the value of mine rescue teams, but the value that these competitions provide.
Most importantly, I want to take a moment now to acknowledge, welcome, and thank the co-workers, friends and families of the participating teams. Your support and care of these team members is essential to their success. Without it, these team members would find their jobs much more difficult. Thank you!
And we owe special gratitude to the spouses of the team members. They give up valuable and cherished time with their spouses so that they can train to save the lives of other miners. I want to make sure you understand that your sacrifices are recognized and appreciated - and tell you that we all know what you give up so that your spouse could potentially save other miners' lives. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
As Bob mentioned, we have had a very difficult year in the mining community in this country. The tragedies at Sago, Aracoma Alma #1 and Darby have brought home to us in a big way that mine rescue teams are, indeed, essential to the safety and health of miners in this country. You train and work hard to be ready for the day we hope will never come - and you're there when we need you.
The results of this contest show that you are ready and willing, today and every day, to reach out to save your colleagues and friends. Your level of preparedness couldn't possibly be higher - the entire metal/non-metal mining community pulls together and works hard to make sure of that. Watching you and talking with you over the last past two days has just reinforced my respect and admiration for you - and my absolute and unshakeable confidence that no matter what, you will be successful.
I want to take a few moments (and I promise, they will be few!) to talk briefly about the new MINER Act that President Bush signed into law on June 15. Remember, several parts of the bill will require rulemaking. We are in the deliberative process of that now, and you can keep up-to-date on the law and the rules we must make to administer it by regularly visiting our website at www.msha.gov. There is a single page that contains information on the Act and updates on where we stand in implementation.
Many of the provisions in the law apply solely to underground coal mines. However, there are several key provisions that apply to both coal and metal/nonmetal mines that I'd like to tell you about tonight, including:
- Raising the criminal penalty cap to $250,000 for first offenses and $500,000 for second offenses, as well as raising the maximum civil penalty for flagrant violations to $220,000;
- Requiring that a mine operator notify MSHA within 15 minutes of a death, entrapment or injury likely to result in death of a miner. This provision is also contained in the emergency temporary standard that MSHA promulgated earlier this year. The penalty for failure to notify within 15 minutes was set in the law as not less than $5,000 and not more than $60,000;
- Delineating specific mine rescue team requirements, including training and certification of the teams;
- Establishing a "good Samaritan" provision shielding individuals not employees of the mine who participate in a mine rescue from legal action unless there was gross negligence, reckless or illegal conduct; and
- Establishing a grant program called the Brookwood-Sago Mine Safety Grants program, to provide training grants to better identify, avoid and prevent unsafe working conditions in and around mines.
Now let's get to the part I like best - the awards! Eddie, could you come back up to the stage -- let's start the celebration!