The Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response (MINER) Act of 2006 amended the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 to provide greater protections for underground coal miners and improve emergency preparedness.
It required mine operators to develop emergency response plans, ensure that rescue teams are nearby, and maintain communications and tracking systems for use in an emergency. It increased civil and criminal penalties for violations of federal mining safety standards and gave MSHA the ability to close a mine that failed to pay penalties. It also boosted mine safety training and research.
The Act was implemented through a series of rulemakings and policy letters in the following categories:
- An Emergency Mine Evacuation Rule required mine operators to increase the availability of emergency breathing devices, improve emergency evacuation and drill training, and install lifelines for emergency evacuation. It also required immediate notification of an accident to MSHA.
- Program Policy Letter P19-V-01 provided policy and guidance to underground coal mine operators to facilitate the development of the Emergency Response Plans required by the MINER Act. MSHA developed a checklist to help stakeholders comply with this letter.
Two-Way Communications and Tracking
- A series of policy letters provide guidance on two-way communications and electronic tracking requirements. Program Policy Letter P14-V-01 Program Policy Letter (P13-V-09).
Mine Rescue Teams
- The Mine Rescue Teams Rule, later revised, set new standards to improve the training, effectiveness and response times of teams. A separate rule revised standards for mine rescue equipment to reflect advances in design and technology.
Sealing of Abandoned Areas
- The Sealing of Abandoned Areas Rule, later corrected, strengthened requirements for the design, construction, maintenance and repair of seals used to close off abandoned areas of an underground coal mine.
Belt Air and Belt Flammability
- The Belt Air/Belt Flammability Rule strengthened requirements regarding the fire retardant properties of conveyor belts and the use of belt air for ventilation. The rule incorporated the recommendations of a Technical Study Panel created by the MINER Act.
- The Refuge Alternatives Rule required operators of underground coal mines to provide refuge alternatives to protect miners when a life-threatening event occurs that makes escape impossible.