Mine questions recalled

Report on Crandall disaster will be released Thursday

Published: Tuesday, July 22 2008 12:05 a.m. MDT

"Regulation is the framework of which we determine and evaluate safety," Harvey said. "The value of zero injuries and the value of safety is beyond regulation, and that's a matter of training at the universities, training of the miners and training before they go into the mines."

Wendy Black, wife of Dale Black, one of three men who died trying to rescue the trapped miners, still has several relatives in mining. She was interested in the discussion about safety improvements.

"If we can help save one coal miner with all this help, it'll be worth it," Black said.

A moment of silence was held for Erickson's father and the others who died at Crandall Canyon.

"It was honorable," Erickson said about the recognition of his father. "I just wish that he was still here."

Sen. Mike Dmitrich, D-Price, who made a 30-year career in the mining industry, said there is "huge" pressure coming from mine-safety issues these days. He believes there should have been more oversight in the plan approval process for Crandall Canyon.

Huntington Mayor Hilary Gordon was impressed by communication and miner location-detector devices that were talked about Monday.

"I always felt maybe the technology was right there," Gordon said about what sort of technology could have been used by Crandall Canyon miners prior to the collapse. "If only they could have pinpointed where those men were."

Although Dalpiaz called Utah's new mine-safety director a "cop without a gun," Gordon and Dmitrich said they are grateful for Garth J. Nielsen's new role. Nielsen was appointed by Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. earlier this month.

Though there will be oversight from Nielsen, he has no regulatory control over mines in his position as director of the new Office of Coal Mine Safety.

Dalpiaz was much more blunt about safety concerns at Crandall Canyon: "If that mine would have been unionized, that particular mining practice never would have happened," he said.

The problem these days, Dalpiaz said, is that with a bad economy and an "intimidating" atmosphere that silences some miners, no one will speak up for fear of losing their job. "These guys are just so intimidated," he said.

Davitt McAteer, vice president for sponsored programs at Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia and the former assistant secretary for the Mine Safety and Health Administration during the Clinton administration, said in an interview at the conference that as part of efforts to improve mine safety, the government should work with industry to reduce the obstacles that impede the expedient use of new, potentially life-saving technologies at mine sites.

"The regulatory system is so complicated that even if we have the solution, we can't get it into place," he said.

E-mail: sspeckman@desnews.com; jlee@desnews.com

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