As the Utah Mine Safety Commission considers all its options before making recommendations to the governor prior to the start of the Legislature's session, some high-powered mining executives today voiced strong opposition to the creation of a state mine safety agency.

Three presidents of Utah coal-mine companies testified before the commission during a meeting today at the state capitol. They told the panel that they oppose the state developing a mine-safety agency, because they believe it would duplicate much of the work already being done by the federal Mine Health and Safety Administration (MSHA).

"The state should enhance training for miners, they should enhance the technology at the universities to address the specific geologic problems unique to Utah," said J. Brett Harvey, president and chief executive officer of Consol Energy Inc., which owns the Emery Mine near Provo. "But to just add inspection doesn't make any sense."

He said the state would be better off developing programs that provide training and education to miners so that they can examine on-the-job safety issues first-hand.

"Empower them to change the safety of the mines as they do their jobs, rather then have some agency who shows up once a week," he said.

Harvey testified along with Neil Getzelman, president of Interwest Mining Co., which operates the Deer Creek mine near Huntington, and Gene DiClaudio, president of Canyon Fuel Co. which operates three underground coal mines in Utah.

Both Getzelman and DiClaudio echoed the sentiments voiced by Harvey.

"It is unnecessary and premature to reestablish the Utah state mine-safety program," Getzelman said.

Of the 17 states with underground mining operations, Utah is among seven with no state safety inspection programs for coal mines. For the past 30 years, Utah has instead turned over safety regulations and enforcement to MSHA.

"A Utah mine-safety enforcement program would only duplicate the existing federal regulatory process," DiClaudio said. He added that some Eastern states such as West Virginia and Kentucky have their own state agencies but still have a higher rate of mine injuries than Utah.