Federal Mining Regulations

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Federal Mining Regulations

Regulatory proposals and changes by MSHA can have very direct effect on research priorities. The regulatory changes usually result in part from advances in technology, some of which may have resulted from NIOSH research. The regulatory changes in turn can create needs for new research. For example, changes in the regulations for noise and diesel particulate in recent years have had major effects on the direction of NIOSH mining research in these areas. Stricter regulations have increased the priority of research on control technology needed to enable compliance with the noise and diesel particulate regulations. As a result, NIOSH has greatly increased the staffing and discretionary funding assigned to these research areas since the new regulations were first proposed. (Arthur, p.13)

The economic conditions of the mining industry depend primarily on supply and demand for the product as well as the cost of producing the product. Supply and demand depend on national and world economic conditions. Metals are traded world-wide and prices of metals determine whether metal mining can be done profitably in the U.S. Mines limit or expand production and employment based on swings in the commodity prices. The price of coal and the economic health of the coal industry is affected by the supply of competing energy sources, especially natural gas. Any major change in the regulation and acceptance of nuclear energy for electricity generation could have long-term implications for the demand for U.S. coal production. Production costs can be affected by regulatory and technology changes, among other factors. The economic strength of the industry affects mining employment and the ability of the industry to employ more costly health and safety control technologies(Thomas , p.44).

Long-term research planning is generally based on the assumption of stable funding for the program. Unexpected demands on the federal budget put pressure on other existing federal programs, including NIOSH research. These budget pressures can be caused by any weakness of the U.S. economy and resulting declines in federal revenues. Increased spending due to war or major disasters may increase budget deficits and the need for reductions in existing programs. Sometimes the Congress reacts to budget deficits by general across-the-board cuts in most federal programs. This has the effect of eroding the discretionary funds available for research.

Some of the most significant changes in mining in the past few decades include the shift from underground to surface coal mining and toward longwall mining of underground coal, the increase in underground stone operations, and the increase in independent contractors. These shifts in mining methods have resulted in large increases in production and decreases in mining employment, while the shifts to underground stone introduced new safety and health challenges for workers in that secto (Holland, p.45)r. The shift to independent contractors as well as other demographic changes has created new demands on training and other interventions. Other new technologies developed outside of mining find application in the industry. Sometimes these new technologies may be used to help control existing health and safety hazards, but they also ...
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