MSHA Increases Fines

By Aram Kalousdian, Editor | September 28, 2010

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) recently increased fines for mine safety violations. Terry Wagaman, chair of the Michigan Aggregates Association (MAA) Safety Committee, told attendees of the MAA Fall Meeting that MSHA enacted what is called an "excessive history" regulation, which means that if a firm has five or more citations in a 15-month period per mine identification number, a $50 fine can go up to as much as $50,000.

Mike Newman, managing director of MAA, told attendees that progress is being made on the specifications issue with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT).

Newman reported at the MAA 2006 Winter Meeting that the aggregates industry has had serious concerns about the way specifications are developed by MDOT. Numerous modifications, special provisions and changes have been very complicated and expensive for the industry, Newman told Winter Meeting attendees.

"Over the last few months, John Friend, bureau director for Highway Delivery, and I have developed a better relationship, a much stronger relationship, and it is his intention to work with this industry. He really wants to stop the animosity that has developed over the last 10 to 15 years. We are actually trying to work together to solve common problems and to try to make the funding program more efficient in Michigan," Newman told Fall Meeting attendees.

"So, with the agreement of John Friend and the oversight and approval of the MAA board of directors, we developed a new specifications committee with Don Rosenbarger,of Barrett Paving, as the chairperson." Newman explained that because the specifications committee was large, an executive committee was selected from each one ofMAA's committees.

"The major issues in front of us remain the same. There will be a new MDOT specifications book that will be dated 2011. They will start working on that very soon. This is a long-term project. We, obviously, want to be involved in that," Newman said.

"We had our first meeting on September 13 and, I have to tell you, that it was one of the most positive meetings that we have ever had with MDOT. I'm very optimistic about this. Besides putting the issues on the table, there were two things that happened at that meeting that I found to be significant. The first one was, toward the conclusion of the meeting, John Friend looked across the table and said, 'we write these specifications and put a lot of demands on you. And, sometimes these specifications are not the most efficient way to use material. Perhaps you don't get the yield you need; perhaps there is too much waste. We ought to be sitting down and talking about designing specifications that work for MDOT, but also make the most efficient use out of your natural resources.'

"The second thing that was remarkable was when we started talking about the problems we have with permitting," Newman said. He explained that the time will soon come when a line could be drawn from Muskegon to Bay City and permits will not be issued for mining aggregates south of that line. "It's becoming that complicated, that expensive, and very difficult," Newman said.

"That is going to impact MDOT, if they can't get materials at a reasonable price." Newman said that Friend told him that MDOT and MAA should be working together with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) to figure out a better way for the aggregates industry to get the permits so that MDOT has access to a reasonable supply of aggregate. "So, I think that we are moving in a very positive direction,"Newman added.