The arrival of spring means it’s time for hundreds of surface mines to reopen after the winter freeze. It’s a busy but potentially dangerous period, as miners return to work and prepare equipment for the new season. There’s no better time to brush up on safety procedures that can carry mining operations through the summer.
Of the 12,000 metal and nonmetal mines overseen by the Mine Safety and Health Administration, nearly half – 5,800 – are operated on an intermittent basis, closing in the winter months when snow and freezing temperatures make operations difficult or impossible. Most of these intermittent mines are crushed stone operations, primarily sand and gravel pits, but they also include limestone, granite and other stone operations.
According to MSHA data, injuries at these aggregate mines typically climb sharply in the spring, then drop in the fall to a mid-winter low, as shown by the chart below.
Through the past decade, overall injury rates have been reduced, but the pattern of increases in the spring remains. MSHA reminds all miners and mine operators to review the safety information at www.msha.gov, particularly this page for metal and nonmetal mines, and attend spring safety workshops if any are offered in your area.
For more information about how to stay safe, and to find out whether spring safety workshops are planned in your area, please contact the nearest district office, which can be found here.
Brian Goepfert is the safety division chief for metal and nonmetal mines within the Mine Safety and Health Administration.