The trio wrote in a letter to the Appropriations Committee on March 22 that the traditional systems in use for mine emergencies are “tedious, slow and ineffective” and that continuing to employ them can delay a rescue mission and exacerbate risk.
“In comparison, the deployment of wireless technology is more effective and reliable, which makes a significant difference when mine rescue teams have a short window of time in which to perform,” the three Democrats said in the document, which formally requests an addition of the funding to the Fiscal Year 2017 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act.
While the legislators did not indicate any specific wireless system, they did note that only a few federal field offices currently have the next-generation technology.
“MSHA currently has several field offices with federal mine rescue capabilities, including in Beckley, West Virginia, but only two of MSHA’s locations in Pittsburgh and in Denver have fully equipped wireless mine safety communications and tracking systems that can significantly reduce response time after mining accidents,” they said, citing recent examples of incidents in Colorado, Texas and Indiana. “Rescue operations, which once took days, now can be completed in hours if equipment and teams are readily available.”
There are currently more than 300 active mine rescue teams (federal, state and private) in the U.S., and there are multiple MSHA-approved wireless and communications systems available thanks in part to the implementation of the MINER Act of 2006.
The full text of the letter can be viewed here.