The Senate beat back all major amendments and gave organized labor and the Carter administration an important victory yesterday, passing a new mine safetly bill.
The final vote was 78 to 18. A some-what similar measure has cleared the Educationa and Labor Committee in the House.
Sen. Harrison A. Williams Jr. (D-N.J.), chairman of the Human Resources Committee, said that under existing laws "one death and 66 disabling injuries" occur everyday of the year in the mining industry.
The bill transfers administration of the existing Coal Mine Safety Act and Metal and Non-Metallic Mine Safety Act from the Interior Department to the Labor Department, an agency that Williams said "has only one purpose - the welfare of the workers of America."
At the same time, the bill substantially beefs up the penalty and inspection provisions of the Coal Mine Safety Act from the Interior Department to the Labor Department, an agency that Williams said "has only one purpose - the welfare of the workers of America."
At the same time, the bill substantially beefs up the penalty and iinspection provisions of the Coal Mine Safety Act and then places metal and non-metal mines, involving substances like potash, copper and hard-rock minerals, under the same stronger provisions, repealing the old, weaker law governing metal and non-metal mines.
Williams and Jacob K. Javits (R.N.Y.) said this would subject all mines to the same broad system of inspection, regulation, fines and court action, although the specific requirements would differ in accord with health and safely problems unique to each type of mine.
Western senators lost attempts to block the transfer out of the Interior Department, claiming it hadn't done such a poor job. A Harrison Schmitt (R.N.M.) amendment to that effect lost 58 to 25 on Monday, and a substitute bill doing the same thing offered by Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) lost 66 to 30 yesterday. During the voting, lobbyists for the United Steelworkers, AFL-CIO, United Mine Workers, Cement, Lime and Gypsum Workers and the Labor Department patrolled the Senate's public lobby in support of the Williams bill.
Williams told of 91 miners killed at the Idaho Sunshine silver mine in 1972, the Buffalo Creek, W.Va., mine impoundment flood that killed 125 in 1972, and the deaths of 26 at the Scotia mine in 1976, among other disasters.
He said it's poor idea for the agency in charge of mine safety to also have responsibility for increasing mine production. This might cause it to hestate to shut kown unsafe mines in some cases, Williams said.
Key provisions of the bill call for speeded-up imposition of new safety regulations where needed, so that they can normally be in effect within two years instead of the four or more years often required now.
At least four inspections a year would be required for every under-ground mine, and two for a surface mine. Mines considered particularly hazardous because of various conditions, including the presence of explosive methane gas, would have to be inspected once every five working days. Inspection would be on a surprise basis, without prior notice.
If a mine shows a pattern of violating safety and health standards, doesn't clean up violations in a specified time or has conditions that place humans in "imminent danger," it could be closed down.