With the anniversary of the tragedy at Crandall Canyon approaching, the former head of the state Mine Safety Commission said the United States should take advantage of advanced technologies for mine safety that are available in other parts of the world.
Scott Matheson Jr. said in an interview Tuesday at the International Mining Health and Safety Symposium held in downtown Salt Lake City that American mine operators can learn a great deal from technologies used in other nations.
"Safety programs and safety measures in other countries are ahead of where we are in the U.S.," he said. "It seems to me that we should take seriously the fact that we have some catching up to do."
Matheson noted that University of Utah scientist Walter Arabasz commented at the symposium on Monday that seismic monitoring in other mining nations is much more advanced than technology in America.
"If they're doing some things better than we are, then we better find out what they are, learn from them and move forward," Matheson said.
Among the chief issues discussed on the final day of the three-day conference was "bump prevention and control." "Bumps" are underground seismic events that can cause collapses similar to what happened at Crandall Canyon.
Last August, six coal miners were trapped following a collapse at the Crandall Canyon Mine near Huntington in Emery County. Days later, three rescuers died trying to reach the trapped miners.
The mine was permanently shuttered, and the miners' bodies were never recovered.
Christo de Klerk, general manager of Mines Rescue Services (PTY) Ltd. of South Africa, said underground mining in the United States is done much deeper than in his country. Even so, he suggested that mine operators in America should invest in technology and research used in South Africa that monitors seismic activity and provides information for better strategies for design.
He added that in South Africa, the use of seismic technology is commonplace and required in the nation's "Code of Practice" for all mining companies.
De Klerk said mine operators in South Africa also use tracking devices to help locate miners trapped by a collapse, something he hopes more U.S. companies implement, as well.
Since 1900, more than 100,000 people have lost their lives while mining coal in the United States. Kevin Stricklin, the administrator for Coal Mine Safety for the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration, told conference-goers that fatalities are a sad reality and an issue his agency and mine operators must work to eliminate.In the past year, MSHA has increased enforcement of mining violations by leveling $84 million in fines, compared with $25 million the previous year. The top citations issued this past year were for extreme amounts of coal dust in mines, which can cause lung problems for miners.