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SME eNews
National Research Council issues final mining workforce report
On March 21, the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences released its final report, Emerging Workforce Trends in the Energy and Mining Industries: A Call to Action. This report is the culmination of two years of collaboration with SME and our trade association partners, who supplied much of the employment data and industry projections that were captured in this final NRC report. A four-page summary (PDF) that includes seven specific NRC recommendations is also available.

The report identifies several factors that pose a threat to maintaining a sufficient energy and mining workforce. One third of the U.S. mining workforce is poised to retire in great numbers by the end of this decade. For example, projections from MSHA show that 46 percent of its coal-sector workforce will be eligible to retire within 5 years. Another major factor is that a strong foundation in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills is needed for many energy and mining jobs. However, the current pipeline of STEM-capable students and workers is inadequate to meet workforce needs. Finally, a serious problem recognized in this report is a faculty shortage at U.S. mining schools. Unless this is corrected, the nation risks losing its capacity to provide new science and engineering professionals for the workforce. SME has published a technical briefing paper, “Federal Support for U.S. Mining Schools,” that addresses this issue and makes five specific recommendations that are needed immediately to correct this problem.

Minerals & Metallurgical Processing featured abstract
From our February issue: Jan Miller’s group uses X-ray microtomography to characterize rare earths at Mountain Pass Mine, CA: Characterization of rare-earth resources at Mountain Pass, CA using high-resolution X-ray microtomography (HRXMT).

Subscribe today to access the Rare-Earth Minerals issue, featuring the latest research from Jan Miller, Douglas Fuerstenau, Pradip and other luminaries.
Mine the archives at Mining Engineering
Come visit MEOnline to read daily news articles, browse the Mining Engineering archives and flip through the latest issue of your flagship magazine. Or access any issue back to July 2004 with our easy-to-use online viewer.

Environmental Considerations
in Energy Production
When: April 14-18, 2013
Where: Charleston Marriott, Charleston, WV

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 on the environment and society. The goals of this meeting are to discuss existing and emerging problems, appropriate and innovative solutions and best practices and techniques, and to develop collaborations and open dialogue on the impacts of energy production on the environment. This conference will feature plenary and keynote sessions with key political and industry leaders, which provide context for the technical issues being discussed.

You won’t want to miss this! Complete details and registration now available here.
Current Trends in Mining Finance: An Operators’ Guide
When: April 29-30, 2013
Where: City University of New York, Graduate Center, New York, NY
Who: Senior executives and mining industry specialists among bankers, analysts and investors

SME will host its first annual conference on Current Trends in Mining Finance in New York City. This two-day conference will cover a range of important topics, including general trends in project evaluation and investment decision-making; drivers of future industry mergers and acquisitions; tax and accounting issues facing the mining industry; risk factors in the current market environment; new sources of funding for mining projects; trends in mineral development agreements; and the impact of “soft” issues on mine development and finance. This is a unique opportunity to get current on important issues that affect project finance, investment and strategic planning.

Registration now open! Complete meeting details available at: www.smenet.org/page/?id=1049.

New from the SME bookshelf
Grouting Equipment Manual: Selection, Operations, Maintenance, and Repair, by Donald C. Hegebarth. This handy, colorful manual introduces various types of equipment employed in pressure grouting applications performed in geotechnical works, and examines the operating principles and maintenance issues relative to each equipment type. Only $69 for SME members. For more information, click here.

National Research Council issues report on improving
self-escape from underground coal mines
On March 14, the National Research Council of the National Academy of Science issued a report, Improving Self-Escape from Underground Coal Mines. U.S. mine safety practices have received increased attention in recent years because of the highly publicized coal mine disasters in 2006 and 2010. Investigations have centered on understanding both how to prevent or mitigate emergencies and what capabilities are needed by miners to self-escape to a place of safety successfully. This report focuses on the latter - the preparations for self-escape.

The report focuses on empowering miners with the tools and training they need to flee emergencies like the 2010 Upper Big Branch blast that killed 29 workers. It does not delve into laws or regulations. The document called on the NIOSH and MSHA to focus more on developing new technologies to help miners escape, beyond the systems already in place. It also asked federal agencies to refrain from preventing new devices from quickly entering the marketplace.

"With modest effort and investment, the mining industry can derive great benefit by learning from its own efforts to plan for emergencies as well as from what is currently known in areas such as technology development, decision-science, safety culture, and training," the report said.

SME Congressional Fellowship looking for qualified candidates
The SME Board of Directors approved a plan to create a mining engineering Congressional Fellowship in Washington, D.C. for 2014-’15. The Fellow will spend one year working as a special legislative assistant on the staff of a member of Congress or congressional committee. Activities may involve conducting legislative or oversight work, assisting in congressional hearings and debates, and preparing briefs and writing speeches. The Fellow also attends an orientation program on congressional and executive branch operations. That program includes guidance in the congressional placement process and a year-long supervised seminar series on science and public policy issues.

The purpose of this Fellowship is to provide a unique opportunity to gain firsthand experience with the federal legislative process and make practical contributions to the effective and timely use of the Fellow’s specific knowledge in mining, mineral processing and mined product applications as they relate to the environment, natural resources and federal science policy. Qualified candidates will gain an invaluable public policy learning experience, contribute to the more effective use of mined materials knowledge in government and broaden awareness about the value of scientist/engineer-government interaction within the federal government.

The SME application period opens this fall. If you are interested in applying for this position or need more information, please contact John Hayden, hayden@smenet.org or 303-948-4250.

Need a quote for business insurance?
The Wright Group has negotiated an SME - exclusive professional liability program with Beazley Insurance Company for SME members and continues to use its insurance expertise to assist SME members in obtaining the most appropriate and cost-effective insurance policies. Click here for the company brochure. For more information, contact Allan Crumbaker at the Wright Group, acrumbaker@twgservices.com, 303-228-2205.

Report claims higher mortality in coal counties
According to a new study by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, adverse health outcomes, including mortality, occur at higher rates in the Appalachian region of the U.S. However, conflicting evidence has been found regarding whether these disparities are due primarily to coal mining. The findings, reported in a research bulletin (PDF) for the Appalachian Research Initiative for Environmental Science (ARIES), based at Virginia Tech, are part of a growing body of research about the potential effects of coal mining on health outcomes, which environmentalists and regulators have used to call for tougher standards.

Mortality was generally higher in mining counties, researchers found. For example, the cancer death rate for men between 2005 and 2007 was 266.3 per 100,000 people in mining counties, compared with 252 per 100,000 people in non-mining counties. The results of these analyses indicate that total and cause-specific mortality is elevated in WV coal-mining counties relative to Appalachian non-coal mining counties for certain causes of death. Additional studies of Appalachian mortality are required to understand the complex interactions of factors and determine the extent to which coal mining plays a part.

Researchers will present the new findings at SME’s Environmental Considerations in Energy Production conference April 14-18 in Charleston, WV.

Washington Updates

House Democrats reintroduce mine safety bill
On March 21, a Democrat group of mine safety proponents in the House renewed their call for stronger mine safety standards by introducing legislation (PDF) to boost penalties and protect whistle-blowers. As we near the three-year anniversary of the Upper Big Branch disaster, Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV) joined Rep. George Miller (D-CA), ranking member on the House Education and Workforce Committee, in introducing the bill that is similar to the version discussed in the previous two sessions of Congress. Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT) is also taking a higher profile on the issue as the new ranking member on the Workforce Protections Subcommittee.

The bill includes a wish-list of reforms from mine safety advocates, including tougher criminal and civil penalties for safety violations. It would also push mines to take care of their unpaid fines. The legislation would also give MSHA more power to close problem mines and more subpoena authority. For miners, there are provisions for increased training, the ability to meet with regulators confidentially and employment protections.

In the Senate, lawmakers including Senate Labor Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) have also been calling for new mine safety laws. It will be difficult to get mine safety reform passed in the Republican-controlled House, and Republicans in the Senate may use various rules and procedures to block any vote on such a bill.

Coal Caucus leadership reiterates support for coal’s role in U.S. economy
Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), will serve as co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Coal Caucus for the 113th Congress, along with Reps. John Shimkus (R-IL), chairman of the Environment and Economy Subcommittee, and William Enyart (D-IL). In announcing the 65-member Caucus, Capito said colleagues from states that don't produce coal need to know the mineral's value in energy production and the economy.

"We are really about trying to educate other members about coal and the vital uses of coal - not just as an energy source, but its role in our economy. They also need to see there are jobs from other industries that are related to the coal," Capito said, citing the electric and rail industries. "You form a caucus to make your voices louder and stronger." The caucus plans to call in expert witnesses periodically to give presentations to members and their staffs.

She sees the caucus as "a rapid response team" poised to fight if needed against stricter regulation of the coal industry and coal-fired power plants.

MSHA Updates

MSHA issues safety alert for rock dusting of coal mines
On March 20, MSHA issued a safety alert (PDF) that includes a list of best practices for adequate rock dusting of underground coal mines. MSHA requires that floating coal dust on the mine floor, ribs, roof, suspended items or other objects be adequately made inert by the application of rock dust. The liberal application of rock dust is necessary to maintain the required minimum total incombustible content and prevents the possible propagation of explosions in underground coal mines. The best practices listed in the safety alert include ways to help make floating coal dust inert and to maintain the required minimum total incombustible content.

Coal MSHA citation backlogs on the sequester chopping block
On March 15, West Virginia Democrats Sens. Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin and Rep. Nick Rahall joined House Education and the Workforce ranking member George Miller (D-CA) in sending a letter (PDF) to acting Labor Secretary Seth Harris to spare an effort to reduce the backlog of mine safety violation appeals from any sequester-related cutbacks.

Since the 2010 Upper Big Branch disaster, lawmakers have been funding efforts at MSHA, the Office of the Solicitor and the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission (MSHRC) to reduce the adjudication backlog. The Office of Management and Budget said sequestration would force MSHA to slash about $19 million. The MSHRC would lose about $1 million.

The lawmakers note that it can take more than a year on average to process a mine safety appeal. They also said cutting staff dedicated to reducing the backlog from 74 full-time positions to 44 positions would jeopardize their efforts to set aside extra funding for the effort in recent fiscal years since the Upper Big Branch disaster.

In a recent letter, the Labor Department said sequestration could potentially lead "to an increase in the fatality and injury rate among miners." MSHA has said that special impact inspections that target problem mines may also take a hit because of sequestration.

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