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MSHA News Release No. 97-1027
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Contact: Amy Louviere
Phone: (703) 787-6879

Monday, Oct 27, 1997

MSHA, Florida Canyon Mining, Inc., Reach Agreement on Health Violations

The U.S. Labor Department's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and Florida Canyon Mining, Inc., which is owned and operated by Pegasus Gold Corp., of Spokane, Wash., have signed an agreement involving the abatement of health violations at the Florida Canyon Mine, an open pit gold mine in Pershing County, Nevada. The Florida Canyon Mine has been cited repeatedly for silica and silver overexposures during federal inspections over the past several years. The agreement calls for a number of measures that Florida Canyon Mine has agreed to undertake in order to better protect miners.

"By working to solve specific mine health and safety problems with tailor-made agreements, we are creating a win-win situation for all involved parties -- Florida Canyon, its workers and government," said J. Davitt McAteer, assistant labor secretary for mine safety and health. "This innovative agreement is the third one MSHA has made with mining operations to achieve compliance with health standards and provide workers protection against health hazards," he said.

While each of these agreements is different depending on the nature of the health hazard, they include provisions such as better equipment, engineering controls or technology, best work practices, sampling, training and medical surveillance -- all of which are designed to solve compliance problems.

According to the agreement, Florida Canyon will comply with the following:

Install Adequate Engineering and Environmental Controls: Florida Canyon Mine has agreed to design, procure and construct the necessary equipment and facilities for the purpose of abating the overexposure-related violations.

Use Respiratory Protection: While the engineering controls are being designed and installed, and the system is adjusted to achieve compliance, the operator is to require all of its employees -- working at either crusher during operation, within the sample preparation area of the assay lab, and in the refinery where silver and lead exposures exist -- to wear approved respirators.

Periodically Sample: The operator will conduct sampling at least every 30 days for silica, lead or silver exposures on a representative number of miners working in the areas where the contaminants have been previously cited. The mine operator will also conduct sampling of a representative number of miners with potential for silica, lead or silver exposure.

Provide Medical Surveillance: The company will continue to conduct a medical surveillance program, modifying its program within four weeks after the agreement is signed by providing all current and future miners in all occupations with the opportunity for an initial medical examination, followed by subsequent exams every four years thereafter.

Perform Hazard Awareness Training: The company is to continue to provide silica, lead and silver health hazard training during new-hire training and annual refresher training that addresses the medical and toxicological aspects of those contaminants, respiratory protection methods and procedures, and the need for effective and properly maintained engineering and other control measures.

Housekeeping and Maintenance: The operator currently has in place or agrees to implement housekeeping and work area inspection procedures.

Abatement: The agreement by Florida Canyon provides a concerted plan for abatement of the outstanding violations. The mine operator agreed to continue periodic sampling for overexposures for a year after compliance levels are initially observed in order to appropriately evaluate and adjust engineering controls prior to determining abatement of these citations. In addition, should the implementation of the feasible controls provided in the agreement fail to produce the expected levels of compliance, the operator and MSHA will cooperate to identify and implement additional controls.

More than 1 million workers across the country are exposed to silica dust on the job, and 100,000 of them are at a high risk of developing silicosis, a disabling, sometimes fatal yet preventable lung disease. In October 1996, the Labor Department renewed its commitment to deal with the health hazards of silica dust when it kicked off -- along with the American Lung Association and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health -- a national educational campaign called, "If It's Silica, It's Not Just Dust." Last March, more than 600 people from industry and government participated in the National Campaign to Eliminate Silicosis. Since that time, regional Silicosis-Prevention Workshops have been taking place throughout the country.

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