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Remarks of Deputy Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health
John P. Pallasch
Atlantic Alliance Symposium
Leesburg, VA
September 25, 2008

Good morning, everyone. Thanks for your kind introduction Joy.

Acting Assistant Secretary Stickler asked me to convey his apologies that he couldn't be here. His travel schedule this week is exceptionally heavy and he couldn't make it back to Washington in time to speak with you, much to his regret.

I am happy to be here today to welcome all of you to the 5th Atlantic Alliance Symposium. We at MSHA believe that these kinds of conferences are vitally important to improving safety and health in the mining industry - not just in the United States, but worldwide.

I understand that this year we have more than 70 participants here from six countries representing industry, government, and labor. In addition, I also understand that both the European Aggregates Association (UEPG) and the NSSGA are well-represented here. Welcome, everyone, and thank you for taking the time from your busy schedules to travel here to advance safety and health in the mining industry.

Innovation and creativity are not limited by geography, and it is crucial that members of the mining community get together and exchange information about what's working and what must be improved. Shared knowledge is shared power. We all have the same goal here - eliminating injuries and fatalities and putting an end to occupational illness in the mining industry.

There are advances in technology every day around the world, and every day we learn new things. We need to share our experiences and to learn from each other. The safety and health practices and improvements we learn from each other will become even more important in the future as the aggregates industry changes and grows around the world. I'm happy that MSHA can be a part of that process through the Atlantic Alliance.

As you are all aware, the Atlantic Alliance was created 5 years ago to share ideas and best safety and health practices in the aggregates industry among the U.S., the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Ireland, Belgium and other countries.

Starting with the very first annual Symposium in Cornwall, England in 2004, the Alliance has been a productive one, allowing us all to exchange ideas on safety and health performance, training, communication, challenges, benchmarking, and how the mining industry and governments can work together more effectively to achieve our goals of ending injuries, fatalities and occupational illness in our mines.

The success attained by the UK's Hard Target initiative served as a starting point for accident reduction goals established here in the United States. MSHA's 15/50 program sought to reduce fatalities by 15% and accidents by 50% within a five year period. This program was incorporated into our Government Performance Results Act (or GPRA) goals. MSHA's 15/50 initiative was instrumental toward achieving significant reductions in accidents and fatalities. Metal and Nonmetal set a record low 26 fatalities in 2003 and again matched that number in 2006. I am pleased to say that we are on a record pace for 2008 but 15 fatalities (to date) is still 15 too many.

MSHA has found Alliance relationships with various groups representing the mining industry to be powerful tools to reach out to the mining community. For example, our five-year-old Alliance with the NSSGA has been extremely productive. The NSSGA, in fact, was the first organization to sign a formal Alliance Agreement, and subsequent renewals, with MSHA. The Alliance has produced a number of useful safety and health products, including a series of safety and health hazard alerts for the aggregates industry, joint training initiatives, exchange and dissemination of best practices, DVDs, and other informative products shared with the aggregates industry.

The Atlantic Alliance has been similarly productive for all of its members in the exchange of ideas and best practices. The relationships you have all established will continue to provide positive results for the aggregates mining community throughout Europe and the U.S.

I know that there is a very full agenda at this conference, and I know that we all will learn many useful lessons here.

Thank you for coming and sharing your ideas about safety and health, and thank you for your attention today. Welcome to Leesburg, welcome to Landsdowne Resort, and welcome to this year's Symposium.