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SME eNews - View Past Issue  

SME eNews
Call for nominations

It is that time of year: SME needs your support in selecting the future leadership of our Society. SME is asking for your assistance in nominating and/or recommending members (including yourself) to serve the Society in one of the following roles: SME President (2015), Board Members-at-large (two will be selected) and members for all SME Strategic Committees. For guidelines and information on the nominating process, click here: Call for Nominations
Come browse the Mining Engineering archives!
Come visit old favorites, research trending topics, find that article whose title you can never remember - Mining Engineering archives go back to 2004 and are now easier to use than ever! Free for SME members - just log in.

View 2012 SME Annual Meeting Sessions - online now!
If you missed the Annual meeting in Seattle, you can still take in the Keynote and 10 other sessions, including:
  • Geology: Mine Water Management in Cold Regions
  • Mineral & Metallurgical Processing: Plenary Session
  • Industrial Minerals & Aggregates: Aggregates and Urban Mining
  • International Symposium on Water in Mineral Processing: Processing with Sea Water and Saline Solutions
  • Geology: Rare Earths: Markets and Policy: Working Toward Ensuring Supply
  • Mining & Exploration: Mine Technology: Cool Toys & Nifty Gizmos
  • Industrial Minerals & Aggregates: Critical Mineral resources: Challenges and Opportunities
  • Mineral & Metallurgical Processing: Plant Design, a Panel Discussion on Challenges for 2012 and Beyond
  • Environmental: Water Treatment
  • Coal & Energy: Surface Mining III
To view: http://www.smenet.org/page/index.cfm?id=893

Register today for the North American Tunneling Conference!
Attendee Registration and Exhibitor Registration for the North American Tunneling Conference (NAT) are now open. NAT will be held in Indianapolis, IN from June 24 to 27 at the JW Marriott Indianapolis. This year’s conference promises to be one you won’t want to miss, so be sure to take advantage of early bird pricing and register now! Also make sure you have a room and make your hotel reservations today.

There are still sponsorship opportunities available for NAT. If you are interested in learning more about available sponsorships, please contact Liz Jones (jones@smenet.org). The exhibits hall is currently sold out, but if you would like to be put on the wait list, please contact Dianna Gury (gury@smenet.org).

Full meeting details, including technical program, short courses, exhibitors, award winners and more is now available online here.

Thanks to our donors

Many thanks to the Nelson & Virginia Severinghaus Family Foundation for its support of $10,000 to our Minerals Education Coalition (MEC) program. Nelson “Ben” Severinghaus was always such a great supporter of Mii throughout his life, and he is greatly missed.
Call for papers
Environmental Considerations in Energy Production April 14-18, 2013, Charleston, West Virginia

The organizing committee has issued a call for papers. This conference is aimed at bringing together interested parties from around the world to exchange ideas on energy production, including mining, oil and gas production and electrical power generation, and the impacts of this activity on the environment and society.

For complete details, see: Environmental Considerations in Energy Production

SME and CIM are pleased to announce the second in a series of Reliability and Safety Conferences
Safety Management & System Reliability
November 13-15, 2012
Minneapolis, Marriott City Center, Minneapolis, MN

This conference is intended to provide attendees with the unique opportunity to learn and discuss best practices pertaining to topics related to safety and health management, loss control and system reliability.

For more information, see: Safety Management & System Reliability
SME NOW OFFERS 32 eLEARNING COURSES ....Professional Development 24/7
SME is pleased to offer 32 courses in its eLearning program. A few titles include:
  • Acid Rock Drainage: Prediction and Treatment
  • Surface Mine Development, Operations and Reclamation
  • Using Personal Protective Equipment
  • Equipment Management - Key to Equipment Reliability
  • Ethics in the Mining Industry
  • Pollution Problems in the Mineral and Metallurgical Industries
And much more.....

SME will be adding new courses on a regular basis, so be certain to check the website regularly to see what's new. As always, we are very happy to offer our members a discount. If you are not a member, please enjoy these courses at reasonable nonmember rates or join SME and take advantage of the numerous benefits and discounts we offer.

Washington Updates

House and Senate Pass 90-day extension of the Transportation Bill
In a possible lifeline vote for the recession-beaten U.S. aggregates industry, on March 29, the House and Senate passed (PDF) a "clean" 90-day surface transportation reauthorization extension, which heads to the President's desk for enactment. On March 14, the Senate overwhelmingly passed a two-year, $109-billion bill (PDF) sponsored by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) to fund the nation’s highways and public transit system. On the House side, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) had said it is unlikely his chamber could come up with enough votes to pass its own bill. House leadership had been pushing for a longer term, five-year reauthorization, but that approach has yet to gain much traction. Passage of the Senate bill was hailed as a victory by transportation advocates and the aggregates industry, such as the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association (NSSGA), who are anxious to avoid a shutdown of all highway programs, which would have occurred March 31. The last funding authorization bill, SAFETEA-LU, expired in 2009 but has been extended eight times since then.

Mines in Court

Court overturns EPA ruling on previously issued coal mine permit
On March 23, in a setback for federal regulators, a federal judge said the EPA overstepped its authority in revoking a permit for an Arch Coal surface mine that was to be the largest proposed mountaintop-removal coal mine in Appalachia. In January 2011, in a precedent-setting decision, the EPA revoked the permit for Arch Coal’s Spruce Mine No. 1 in Logan County, WV, arguing that the potential harm to streams and watershed areas surrounding the projected could be significant. The permit had previously been issued by the Army Corps of Engineers in 2007. It was the first time since the Clean Water Act was passed in 1972 that the EPA had canceled a water permit for a project after it was issued. If this decision had stood, all previous legally-issued federal permits for mine operators nationwide would be in jeopardy. The court decision sided with Arch Coal in stating that the EPA lacked authority to modify or revoke the water permit. U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson said, “The Court concluded that the statute does not give EPA the power to render a permit invalid once it has been issued by the Corps.”

Supreme Court decision opens door to challenges of agency wetlands determinations

On March 21, the U.S. Supreme Court dealt a blow to the EPA with a key unanimous ruling (PDF) that allows some of the agency’s decisions under the Clean Water Act to be challenged in court. Property owners – including mine operators - previously had no way to ask a judge to strike down the EPA’s decision on whether their property included jurisdictional wetlands. Instead, they had to refuse to comply with the agency’s orders and face fines that increased daily until EPA took them to court. But in Sacket v EPA the high court said owners can go to a judge to challenge the EPA’s wetlands determination under the Administrative Procedures Act. In this case, the Sackets graded their property in Idaho in an effort to develop it. The EPA determined the activity affected jurisdictional wetlands on site and ordered the Sackets to reverse their filling activity. The Sackets, believing their property did not include wetlands, sued saying the order was arbitrary and violated due process. The justices did not rule on the specifics of the case; however, they sent the case back to a lower court for consideration. This ruling is significant for mine owners, who can now challenge agency wetlands determinations in a court of law.

MSHA Updates
MSHA issues two PIBs on guy wires and escape capsules
During the week of March 19, MSHA issued two Program Information Bulletins (PIBs) in order to promote consistent enforcement of certain sections of the Mine Act. One summarizes and clarifies the requirements in 30 CFR for guy wires attached to poles supporting high-voltage electric power lines at both surface and underground coal and metal/non-metal mines. There have been several fatalities attributed to energized guy wires. The standards require that guy wires meet certain grounding or insulator protection provisions of various national codes.

The other PIB issued informs the underground coal mining community of MSHA's intent to evaluate emergency escape capsules for their capacity to carry a disabled miner on a stretcher and be accompanied by an attendant and to determine if escapeways are properly maintained to ensure the safe operation of such escape capsules during an emergency. MSHA standards in 30 CFR contain requirements for mechanical escape facilities. With the passage of the MINER Act in 2006, MSHA considered the use of such capsules as part of an Emergency Response Plan to evacuate miners to the surface in the event of an emergency. MSHA intends to evaluate the carrying capacity of these escape capsules to determine if all miners underground could be evacuated in a swift and timely manner, including disabled miners. MSHA will also determine if each escapeway is maintained in a safe condition to always assure passage of miners and disabled miners using an escape capsule to evacuate to the surface. In this PIB, MSHA recommends a variety of best practices be considered for use in mechanical escape facility design.

MSHA’s Joe Main testifies on lessons learned from UBB tragedy

On March 27, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce held a hearing entitled “Learning from the Upper Big Branch Tragedy,” where MSHA Assistant Secretary Joe Main called on Congress to pass mine safety legislation to avert future disasters similar to Upper Big Branch. During the hearing, members of the House Committee also called for Congressional action on pending Senate safety legislation, S. 153 (PDF), the “Robert C. Byrd Mine and Workplace Safety and Health Act of 2011” and House legislation, H.R. 3697 (PDF), the “Mine Safety Accountability and Improved Protections Act.” In his testimony, Mr. Main stated there is still a significant gap between enforcement tools currently available to mine inspectors and the ability to shut down flagrant violators of the Mine Act. In response to questions from members of the Committee on what would narrow that gap, Mr. Main supported Congressional action on passing safety legislation that included subpoena powers for MSHA during accidents and investigations, whistleblower protections for miners, punishment for criminal behavior of senior management and incentives to curb advance notice of MSHA inspections. Main also said the agency is currently rewriting the inspection procedures manual for mine inspectors in order to give them clear instructions for reporting violations and issuing citations.

In the aftermath of the UBB tragedy, investigations were initiated by MSHA, as well as an internal review of MSHA's enforcement actions. Also, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) conducted an independent assessment of the internal review. Both the internal review released on March 6 and the NIOSH independent assessment released (PDF) on March 22 document a number of enforcement errors by MSHA that failed to address Massey safety violations. According to the independent assessment, "If MSHA had engaged in timely enforcement of the Mine Act and applicable standards and regulations, it would have lessened the chances of – and possibly could have prevented – the UBB explosion."

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