MSHA plans to release a proposed rule governing proximity detection devices on mobile machines in underground mines in January.

“MSHA has concluded, from investigations of accidents involving mobile equipment and other reports, that action is needed to protect miner safety. … Proximity detection technology can prevent these types of accidents,” the agency said in its November semiannual regulatory agenda. The agency was silent on whether the proposal would apply to the coal sector, metal/non-metal sector or both.

The agency has issued a proposed rule for proximity devices on continuous mining machines in underground coal mines. In its latest agenda, MSHA said it plans to propose a final rule in December. Release of the final rule has been delayed. In the spring, the agency set a June 2014 release date for the regulation. The final rule has been under review at the OMB since January.

MSHA also announced it plans to issue a proposed rule on crystalline silica in October 2015. This comes as a surprise, since silica was left off the agency’s spring agenda. MSHA said it intends to use OSHA's work on the health effects and risk assessment for such silica, “adapting it as necessary for the mining industry.” OSHA issued a proposed silica rule last year, and, its health effects and risk assessment documents came under heavy criticism from the business community in a public hearing this spring.

MSHA issued a proposed rule in July to amend its Part 100 regulations on criteria and procedures for assessment of civil penalties. A public hearing on the proposal was held December 4 with a second scheduled for December 10 in Denver. The comment period closes January 9. In its latest agenda, MSHA did not mention when will issue a final rule, nor was a date given for release of a final rule on fees for testing, evaluating, and approving mining products. The proposal was released in October, and the comment period ended in November.

MSHA listed three rules in the pre-rule stage, including proposed dates for issuing requests for information (RFI). Those initiatives and their RFI dates in 2015 are: regulatory actions in response to recommendations from MSHA’s investigation into the Upper Big Branch-South (UBB) Mine explosion in January; exposure of underground miners to diesel exhaust in April; and examination of working places in metal and nonmetal mines in June. MSHA’s UBB RFI was sent to OMB in October. MSHA said it was seeking information on diesel exhaust exposure based on government studies linking diesel exhaust to cancer.

Two other entries in the pre-rule stage apply to refuge alternatives (RA) in underground coal mines. One seeks information on RA technologies that have been developed since December 2008, when the agency issued a final RA rule. The latest comment period regarding this initiative ends April 2.

The second references a court decision directing MSHA either to explain the reasoning behind a training provision in the final RA rule or to reopen the rulemaking record to allow public comment. Choosing the latter, MSHA reopened the record for five months in 2013. It plans to publish its intent based on the public comments in April.