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[Federal Register: January 25, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 16)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Page 4223-4226]

Part III
Department of Labor

Mine Safety and Health Administration

30 CFR Part 49

Underground Mine Rescue Equipment and Technology; Proposed Rule


Mine Safety and Health Administration

30 CFR Part 49

RIN 1219-AB44

Underground Mine Rescue Equipment and Technology

AGENCY: Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), Labor.

ACTION: Request for information.

SUMMARY: The Mine Safety and Health Administration is requesting data, comments, and other information on issues relevant to underground mine rescue equipment and technology. Over the last several years, improvements have been made to communication devices, sensors and other forms of technology in general industry. As such, continuous development and deployment of mine rescue equipment and technology are crucial to enhancing the effectiveness of mine rescue operations and improving miners' survivability in the event of a mine emergency. Responses to this request for information will assist the Agency in determining an appropriate course of action as necessary to improve mine rescue capabilities.

DATES: Comments must be submitted on or before March 27, 2006.

ADDRESSES: Comments may be submitted by any of the following methods:      Docket: To access comments electronically, go to and click on ``Comments'' under ``Rules and Regulations.''

All comments received will be posted without change at this Web address, including any personal information provided. Paper copies of the comments may also be reviewed at the Office of Standards, Regulations, and Variances, 1100 Wilson Blvd., Room 2350, Arlington, Virginia.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Robert Stone, Office of Standards, Regulations, and Variances, MSHA, 1100 Wilson Boulevard, Room 2350, Arlington, Virginia 22209-3939. Mr. Stone can be reached at (Internet E-mail), (202) 693-9444 (voice), or (202) 693-9441 (facsimile). The documents also are available on the Internet at MSHA maintains a listserve on MSHA's Web site that enables subscribers to receive e-mail notification when MSHA publishes rulemaking documents in the Federal Register. To subscribe to the listserve, visit the site at


I. Background

     When mine accidents occur, effective mine rescue operation can play a crucial role in ensuring the safe withdrawal of affected miners. Specialized rescue equipment and technology are important components of that effort. Section 501(a) of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 directs the Secretary of Labor and the Secretary of Health and Human Services ``as appropriate'' to ``conduct such studies, research, experiments, and demonstrations as may be appropriate--(2) to develop new or improved methods of recovering persons in coal or other mines after an accident; and (3) to develop new or improved means and methods of communication from the surface to the underground area of a coal or other mine.'' In addition, section 502(b) of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 (Mine Act) requires that the Secretary of Labor, to the greatest extent possible, provide technical assistance to mine operators in meeting the requirements of the Mine Act and in further improving the health and safety conditions and practices in the mines. The Mine Act also requires in Section 115(e) that the Secretary publish regulations for the availability of underground mine rescue teams.
     We accordingly test, evaluate and approve certain technologies and equipment for use in mines (see, Title 30, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Subchapter B). We also promulgated requirements for underground mine rescue teams in part 49, 30 CFR, covering, among other things, team equipment, equipment maintenance, and training.

II. Current Status of Mine Rescue

     The Sago Mine accident in West Virginia on January 2, 2006, that claimed the lives of 12 miners, has underscored the vital role that mine rescue operations play in response to catastrophic mine incidents. An MSHA investigation into the cause or causes of this accident, along with a detailed evaluation of the emergency response, is underway. Therefore, the role that the mine rescue played has yet to be determined and evaluated. We believe, however, that regardless of the outcome of the investigation, the role of equipment and technology in mine rescue efforts merits a separate review so that we can better assure that the best and most practicably available equipment and technology are being deployed--and continuously upgraded--to maximize mine rescue responses and miner survivability in the wake of mine accidents.

III. Key Issues on Which Comment Is Requested

     We are requesting comments, data, and other information on topics relevant to underground mine rescue equipment and technology. Public comment is invited in response to the specific questions posed below. Persons may comment on any other relevant aspects, issues, or questions relevant to mine rescue equipment or technology.
     Commenters are encouraged to include any related cost and benefit (e.g., lives saved) data with their submission to this request for information. Any specific issues related to the impact on small or remote mines should also be identified.
     When answering the questions below, please key your responses to the specific topic and number of the question, and explain the specific reasons supporting your views. Please identify and provide relevant information on which you rely, including, but not limited to, episodes of past experience, as well as data, studies and articles, and standard professional practices.

A. Rapid Deploy Systems

     Rapid Deploy Systems are systems which are easily transportable for use in mine emergencies and which can be quickly set up to provide emergency service. An example would be a seismic sensing system for detecting movement underground, or an electromagnetic sensing system to detect signals transmitted by trapped miners. These systems may employ advanced technology and may be under development. B. Breathing Apparatus

     A mine rescue breathing apparatus is a device which provides oxygen for a mine rescue team member to use in contaminated mine atmospheres. C. Self-Contained Self-Rescuers (SCSR)

     SCSRs are devices that provide miners with an MSHA required one hour of useable oxygen to be used for a mine emergency escape. Currently, SCSRs rely on two different technologies. One type uses a chemical reaction to generate oxygen. The other type uses compressed oxygen. D. Rescue Chambers

     A rescue chamber is an emergency shelter to which persons may go in case of a mine emergency for protection against hazards. A rescue chamber could provide, among other things, an adequate supply of air, first aid, and an independent communication system. E. Communications F. Robotics

     A robot is a remote controlled device that can obtain and transmit information relative to the underground environment during mine emergencies. MSHA has pioneered the use of robots in mine emergency operations. G. Thermal Imagers and Infra-Red Imagers

     Thermal imagers are devices which provide video pictures of the heat emitted by objects underground. Infra-red imagers provide similar information through the use of the infra-red light spectrum. H. Developing New Mine Rescue Equipment I. Mine Rescue Teams

     Mine rescue teams are specially equipped and trained miners who enter mines during mine emergencies to rescue trapped miners and help recover mines. Teams are equipped with self-contained breathing apparatuses, gas detectors, mine rescue communication systems, and other specialized equipment. J. Government Role      Dated: January 20, 2006.
David G. Dye,
Acting Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health.
[FR Doc. 06-722 Filed 1-23-06; 10:48 am]