18 July 2002

The US Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has reached a second interim agreement with industry and labor concerning the agency’s standard on diesel particulate matter (DPM) exposure of metal and nonmetal (i.e., noncoal) miners. Under the agreement mine operators must develop and implement good-faith compliance strategies to meet the interim DPM concentration limit of 400 µg/m3 that takes effect on July 20, as stipulated in the original regulation adopted in January 2001.

MSHA will conduct compliance assistance to help mine operators meet the DPM interim standard of 400 micrograms of total carbon per cubic meter of air. The agency will conduct sampling to help mine operators assess their progress and provide information on feasible control technology. During this time, MSHA retains discretion to take appropriate enforcement actions in case mine operators do not work in good faith toward compliance, and will issue citations for failure to comply with the 400-microgram interim limit starting 20 July 2003.

MSHA also agreed to reenter rulemaking on several other disputed provisions in the metal and nonmetal DPM standards.

“This settlement is an important step towards protecting miners’ health,” said Dave D. Lauriski, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. “I’m gratified that industry, labor and MSHA were able to come together to resolve differences. For the next year we will work intensively together to reduce exposures to diesel particulate matter that increase the risk of lung disease in miners.”

Several mining industry organizations went to court to contest MSHA’s final rule, “Diesel Particulate Exposure of Underground Metal and Nonmetal Miners,” shortly after it was published in January 2001. Under a previous partial settlement, several provisions of the rule went into effect or were amended through rulemaking completed in February 2002. Joint sampling was conducted by industry, labor and government at 31 underground mines to determine existing concentration levels of diesel particulate matter and to gather information about the feasibility of complying with the standard’s concentration limits in the underground mine environment.

A notice announcing the partial settlement on MSHA’s metal/nonmetal DPM rule appears in today’s Federal Register [text | pdf].

Source: US MSHA