McAteer on Crandall Canyon: MSHA Responded The Best Way It Could

It seems that MSHA did one thing right during the rescue efforts at the Crandall Canyon Mine. Both United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) President Cecil Roberts and Davitt McAteer, who served as the assistant secretary of labor for MSHA from 1994 to 2000, agreed that MSHA's response efforts were the best the agency was able to provide under the circumstances.

“I think they [MSHA] weighed it the best they can,” McAteer said. “Given what they had to deal with, it couldn't have been any safer.”

However, McAteer recommended that the agency, as well as mining companies, look into adopting technologies such as a wireless mini-seismic system that could predict the buildup of pressure that causes bumps, which are not unusual in Utah's underground mines. In addition, such technologies also could be adapted for mine rescuers to listen for miners trapped below the ground. He also called for the redoubling of efforts to improve communications between the mining surface and underground miners.

More importantly, both MSHA and mine companies should prepare a response that include at least “one worst-case scenario” so they would know how to respond effectively to the event, McAteer emphasized. According to him, the plan should include how to involve miners, local emergency responders and family members in mock-up exercises and plan for all plausible scenarios.

“We need to learn from this accident,” he said. “In Sago, we needed to learn how to keep the miners alive. Because of this accident, we need to learn how to get to miners faster and stop these events from occurring.”

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