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Remarks of Richard E. Stickler
Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Sentinels of Safety Awards Luncheon
Washington, DC
September 19, 2007

I'm happy to be here with the National Mining Association to honor those mining operations who have won the Sentinels of Safety awards for 2006.

I enjoy participating in award programs that recognize outstanding safety achievements because it is important to showcase examples of top safety programs.

This recognition encourages safe operations to continue their best practices, and it shows the rest of the industry that it is possible to run safe mining operations every day of the year.

The entire industry can learn a lot from the operations we are recognizing as Sentinels of Safety award winners.

It is clear that you are doing many things right and you are leading by example.

You didn't get here by luck. Your safety practices not only protect your employees - they can protect other miners as well. We at MSHA are happy to work with you to share those best practices throughout the mining industry.

I am interested to learn about the key methods that contributed to your success so we can help others implement similar methods.

The 19 operations we are recognizing here today have made some extraordinary achievements during 2006. Together they have worked 2,893,785 hours without a lost-time injury in their operations.

To put that in perspective, that would be an operation with over 1400 employees working an entire year without a lost-time injury. That is an impressive number, and is a big step toward eliminating injuries.

While all of the Sentinels winners have done a great job, I would like to single out some of them for special recognition.

First is Black Beauty Coal Company. Three of their operations took 3 of the top 4 spots in the Large Surface Coal Group. A fourth operation took second place in the Small Coal Processing Facility Group.

Black Beauty Coal Company's performance shows a company-wide commitment to safety.

We also have a number of repeat winners. That tells me that these companies have a strong culture of safety.

For example, the Peerless Mine operated by Mississippi Lime Company is a winner for the third consecutive year in the Large Underground Nonmetal Group.

The Sandersville Mill, operated by J.M. Huber, is the winner in the Large Metal Nonmetal Mill Group for the third consecutive year as well.

The Tower Rock Stone Company St. Genevieve Facility is a winner in the Large Quarry Group for the second consecutive year.

The K-2 Mine Site, operated by Kinross Gold Corporation Kettle River Operations, has won for the second consecutive year in the Small Underground Metal group.

And, most impressively, this year's winner in the Large Dredge Group is the Briggs Plant, operated by Fordyce, Ltd. This facility has won Sentinels awards four times before - in 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001.

That is 5 of the 19 operations that have won 2 or more years for a total of 15 times.

They show that safety is a value at their operations. We are happy to be able to recognize them for their success.

We can only recognize 19 first-place winners here today, but there are more than 3,728 operations around the country that will be recognized for their exceptional safety records - working with no lost time injuries and an NDL rate below the national average throughout 2006. These operations worked a total of 81,827,873 man hours without a lost time accident.

The entire mining community working together has achieved impressive reductions in mining fatalities and injuries.

While there have been setbacks and disappointing years, the longer term trends for all indicators have been going down. Don't get discouraged!

Our shared goal is to improve the safety and health of America's miners and to work toward the day when every miner goes home safe and healthy, after every shift of every day.

All of the Sentinels winners have set the example for the industry of how mining operations should be run: by achieving this goal shift after shift, day after day - and in some cases, year after year.

By working together MSHA, mine operators, miners and the entire mining community we can achieve our ultimate goal of zero injuries and fatalities in the mining industry.

You have achieved this goal in your own operations - and I encourage you to help the industry achieve our goals in every operation.

You have our appreciation for all you have accomplished. All of us at MSHA thank you for your achievements and your leadership. And we congratulate you for your success.