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Front Page » September 13, 2007 » Local News » WETC Hosts First Utah Mine Safety Commission Meeting
Published 2,945 days ago

WETC Hosts First Utah Mine Safety Commission Meeting

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Sun Advocate reporter

Price Mayor Joe Piccolo, DOGM Director John Baza and Chairman Scott Matheson, Jr. listen as a presentation concerning mine safety is made during the meetings at WETC.

The first Utah Mine Safety commission meeting focused on one central topic Monday, information. Information concerning the history and future mission of state mine safety as well as the sharing of information between the federal Mining Safety and Health Administration and the state.

According to Price City Mayor Joe Piccolo who is a member of the commission, Utah mine safety chairman Scott Matheson took exception to the fact that MSHA planned to release information concerning the Crandall Canyon mine disaster to the state body via their standard periodic public updates.

"The chairman stated and it is also my opinion that the Utah Mine Safety commission should be privy to investigation information concerning Crandall Canyon as soon as it is available," said Piccolo. "It does us no good to get vital information second hand and after the fact."

MSHA officials did not agree with the state commission's request and according to Piccolo they never conceded to full and immediate disclosure, citing the investigations integrity as their reason for periodic information releases.

Matheson made it clear to MSHA officials that the state commission would not be able to fulfill its mandate from Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman if current information is not made available.

Huntsman has mandated that the safety commission begin its existence by cleary defining the role it will take in the state's mine safety agenda.

"We are not investigating the actions taken at Crandall Canyon," said Piccolo. "That is being done by MSHA and an independent body, we are only requesting the information as it is discovered."

On Aug. 30 U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Choa announced via press release that an independent team of mine safety experts would review the actions of MSHA relative to the Crandall Canyon mine disaster.

"After discussions with administrator for MSHA Richard Stickler, I am taking the unprecedented step of appointing independent outside experts to evaluate MSHA's actions regarding the tragedy at the Crandall Canyon mine on Aug. 6 and the subsequent rescue efforts," said Choa. "The Crandall Canyon miners, the rescuers who were injured and perished in trying to save others and the loved ones who have suffered so much in this tragedy continue to be foremost in our thoughts."

The two individuals leading the independent review are:

•Joseph Pavlovich, a former MSHA district manager and mine rescue expert. Pavlovich has 30 years of hands on experience in underground and surface mining and has extensive experience administrating post accident investigations.

•Earnest Teaster, a former MSHA administrator for metal and non-metal mine safety with 32 years of experience. Teaster has also headed several post accident investigations.

According to the release the independent review will consist of a thorough examination of written mine plans, inspection records and other documents relevant to the Crandall Canyon mine. The group will also interview MSHA employees concerning their actions.

Also on Aug. 30 MSHA announced the appointment of their investigation team and Stickler stated, "MSHA's investigation will fully examine all available evidence to find the cause of the ground failure at Crandall Canyon and any violations of safety and health standards."

The first portion of MSHA's findings were released to the Utah Mine Safety commission during their Sept. 10 meeting. This information led Matheson to request earlier access to MSHA's findings.

"This first meeting let us all get to know each other, to feel out our individual strengths as board members," said Piccolo. "We took a deep look at the history of mine safety in Utah and readied ourselves to assist Utah mines in becoming a safer place."

According to Piccolo, the commissions first meeting showed glaring needs within Utah mines.

"Some things that were made obvious were the differences between western mines and mines anywhere else in the U.S.," concluded Piccolo. "I would like to see more training and career long certifications made available to all miners, it is my feeling that the more training you have the safer you are."

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