It’s likely that over the next few weeks and months, mine safety will be a major focus of many federal lawmakers, regulators and the public, and rightly so. But we think it’s timely to point out that coal extraction is not the only type of mining activity that exists in the United States. Too often the public is not aware of the critical differences among the various mining industries and assume, incorrectly, that all mining is the same.
The National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association represents the crushed stone, sand and gravel — or construction aggregates — production industries. The Kentucky Crushed Stone Association does the same for the producers in Kentucky. Construction aggregates are used primarily to make asphalt and concrete for roads, highways and bridges, and buildings, treatment plants and the like.
Coal mining and aggregates production are very different. NSSGA member companies produce more than 90 percent of the crushed stone and 70 percent of the sand and gravel consumed annually in the United States. Nearly 2 billion tons of aggregates were produced in 2009 at a value of approximately $17.2 billion, contributing nearly $40 billion to the GDP of the United States.
Of the total number of miners in America, approximately one-half, or 111,400, are employed at one of the 10,000 stone, sand and gravel operations nationwide. Since stone, sand and gravel do not burn or produce explosive gases and can generally be mined from the surface, the safety issues are quite different from those at other types of mines.
n Extracted aggregate product is non-combustible and non-flammable.
n No flammable gases such as methane are present.
n Most underground aggregate facilities are only a few hundred feet deep.
n Stable geologic formations result in a minimized need for additional roof supports.
n Extraction methods create large, open spaces for easy access by oversized mobile equipment.
n Increased ventilation due to large, open spaces and different geology eliminates combustible dust potential.
The simple fact that over the past dozen years, there has not been a single multi-fatality incident in the aggregates production industry is further evidence of the difference in safety issues. The national aggregates industry injury incidence rate for 2009 was 2.46, the lowest ever recorded. Kentucky’s aggregate incidence rate for 2009 was 2.136, down from 4.187 in 2000. Considering aggregates move about 2 billion metric tons of stone, sand and gravel a year, the safety record of our members is noteworthy.
We stand against a “one-size-fits-all” mentality among lawmakers and regulators that disregard the pronounced differences between the coal and aggregates industries. We are here to answer any questions you may have about the aggregates industry and its safety performance record.