Sunday, June 18, 2006

Mine Attorney: Mining Deaths Cause Political, P.R. Problems

A mine industry attorney, Mark Savit of Patton Boggs, is really, really upset about the coal mine safety crisis sweeping the country, according to a speech he gave recently to the Elko Mine Expo in Elko, Nevada. Not because miners are being killed, necessarily, but because of all the political problems the fatalities are causing mine owners
"MSHA, for political reasons, can no longer give us a break," he declared. Savit noted that three separate federal investigations of the Mine Health Safety Administration (MSHA) are currently underway by the Inspector General in the U.S. Department of Labor, the General Accounting Office, and the Department of Justice.

Meanwhile, in the Sago case, MSHA had issued citations but the mine had not corrected all the conditions, according to Savit. As a result of the disaster, he predicted that "MSHA will be unlikely to extend abatement periods." (emphasis added)
One mine safety expert wrote me that she wasn't aware that MSHA, under the law, was allowed to give mine owners a break to being with!

Not only will MSHA not be able to give mine owners a break any more, but all of these inconvenient deaths also mean that "The industry will also have a harder time convincing MSHA that any new laws enacted by Congress or MSHA regulations are unreasonable, he added."

Yeah, I'd guess so.

And the Sago deaths, along with the initial reports that the miners were alive, was a complete public relations disaster!
Savit asserted that the misinformation originally disseminated that the Sago miners had survived the disaster proved to be a major mistake that hurt the credibility of mining as an industry, which is already suffering from perceptions that mining destroys the environment, and is dirty and unsafe. Savit claimed that erroneous Sago communications created a public, media and political backlash of "huge anti-mining sentiment" that takes even more money "out of the pocketbook and punishes them [mining companies] more."

He urged miners to "redouble our efforts to marshal the good information" about mining's overall positive safety track record. "Our response at this moment will govern how we are treated for the next 10 to 15 years by MSHA," Savitt concluded.
Oy, such a headache!