Technology, Innovative Practices Leading to Record Mine Safety Improvements

Washington, D.C. – Today the House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources examines an important but seldom recognized aspect of technological innovation – the impact of technologies on modern mining practices. Advances in high-speed, wireless and environmental monitoring technologies have shaped modern mining just as technologies have transformed many other aspects of today’s economy.

The non-legislative hearing, titled “Exploring 21st Century Mining Safety, Environmental Control and Technological Innovation,” focuses particular attention on the recent advances in mine safety made possible by the introduction of new safety practices and technologies in both underground and surface mines. Mark Board, vice president for Technology and Innovation at Hecla Mining Company, one of the nation’s premier metal mining companies celebrating its 125th anniversary this year, described for the panel a broad array of advancements that have created the modern industry.

These advances have helped the U.S. mining industry achieve last year’s record safety performance, recording the fewest fatalities and injuries in its history. Bruce Watzman, NMA’s senior vice president for Safety and Health, said an industry-wide commitment to improved safety has led to significant improvements in mine safety.

The industry’s safety record is partly attributed to bold initiatives like the National Mining Association’s (NMA)CORESafety®, a safety and health framework consisting of best practices gleaned from a variety of industries worldwide that sets a goal of zero fatalities and a 50 percent reduction in injuries in five years.

Companies that implement NMA’s CORESafety practices, for example, had reduced fatalities by 50 percent since the introduction of the framework in 2011. “In contrast to regulation and more piecemeal approaches to safety, CORESafety’s holistic approach is emblematic of this commitment,” he said. “We are creating a vibrant safety culture that seeks to prevent accidents from happening in the first place.”