UMWA applauds release of silica standard in mines

JUNE 30, 2023

UMWA applauds release of silica standard in mines

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] Commenting on the release today by the Mine Safety and Health Administration of a proposed rule limiting silica dust in American mines, United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil E. Roberts issued the following statement today:

“Today, at long last, there is a proposed rule to limit the level of silica dust in mines, meaning that miners will no longer be subject to breathing in microscopic rock particles that will never leave their lungs. This is a good day for miners, although it has been a long time coming.

“We have known for years that rising levels of silica in mine atmospheres was causing a dramatic increase in progressive massive fibrosis. I first raised this issue on Capitol Hill in the wake of the Upper Big Branch disaster in 2010 and testified directly to it in 2019.

“Workers in other industries have long been protected from excessive exposure to silica dust, but miners were not, even though they work in an environment where silica dust is encountered daily. It was a travesty that the government had never taken steps to protect them. But now it finally has.

“I commend all those who have been fighting so long to see this day come; most especially the miners who contracted this insidious and always-fatal disease, their spouses and children. While they have borne the brunt of this disease, they have never lost their will to fight to see that no one else ever gets it.

“This day would also not have come without the medical professionals who did study after study highlighting the dangers of silica dust, the legislators and their staff who tirelessly advocated for action, the Black Lung Association and other groups who have been making their voices heard for so long, and the workers at Black Lung clinics all over the nation who have provided care and comfort for the victims of this disease.

“But this fight is far from over. This is the first step of many that will be required. We must get this rule finalized as soon as possible. And then, we must ensure that mine operators follow the rule, the government enforces it and penalizes those who violate it. We must remain vigilant until the day comes when no miner contracts this disease and we can finally say we have wiped out Black Lung for good.”