The purpose of the Mine Safety and Health Administration
is to prevent death, disease, and injury from mining and to promote safe and healthful workplaces for the Nation's miners.
The Mine Act provides that MSHA inspectors shall inspect each surface mine at least 2 times a year and each underground mine at least 4 times a year (seasonal or intermittent operations are inspected less frequently) to determine whether there is compliance with health and safety standards or with any citation, order, or decision issued under the Mine Act and whether an imminent danger exists. If violations of safety or health standards are found, inspectors will issue citations to the mine operators. During fiscal year 2000, MSHA conducted approximately 20,000 regular mandatory inspections at the Nation's 15,000 surface and underground mines.
MSHA performs other important mandatory activities under the Mine Act. These include, but are not limited to:
- investigating mine accidents, complaints of retaliatory discrimination filed by miners, hazardous condition complaints, knowing or willful (criminal) violations committed by agents of mine operators, and petitions for modification of mandatory safety standards;
- developing improved mandatory safety and health standards;
- assessing and collecting civil monetary penalties for violations of mine safety and health standards; and
- reviewing for approval mine operators' mining plans and education and training programs.
Other activities that support the mandates of the Mine Act include:
- maintaining the National Mine Health and Safety Academy to train inspectors, technical support personnel, and mining industry personnel;
- approving and certifying certain mining products for use in underground coal and gassy metal and nonmetal mines to ensure they do not cause a fire or explosion;
- providing technical assistance to mine operators in meeting the requirements of the Mine Act;
- providing assistance to mine operators in improving their education and training programs;
- cooperating with states in the development of mine safety and health programs;
- making grants to states in which mining takes place; and
- overseeing rescue and recovery operations.
MSHA's inspection presence does not, by itself, result in violation-free mines. MSHA therefore encourages voluntary compliance with the Mine Act through training, technical assistance, and other nonenforcement activities.