"As the Illinois coal industry continues to grow, it is our
responsibility to ensure that the men and women who put their lives
on the line to harness this important energy source are as safe as
possible," Blagojevich said. "This law will make Illinois mines even
safer and better prepared to respond in the event of an accident."
Sponsored by state Rep. Dan Reitz, D-Sparta, and state Sen. Gary
Senate Bill 929 requires the installation of
emergency communication devices in all Illinois mines, requires
escape routes to be clearly marked, requires stricter certification
standards for supervisors and independent contractors, and requires
miners to carry self-contained self-rescuers and have additional
"The unfortunate disasters in coal mines last
year served as a wake-up call to update the safety standards in our
mines," Reitz said. "With these changes, it is my hope that if
there is an accident at one of our mines, we will be prepared to
respond, and our miners will have the tools they need to survive."
"With this new law, Illinois will double its efforts to protect
those who make their living going underground to mine coal," said
Forby. "Updating mine rescue stations, like the ones in Benton and
Harrisburg, using transponders to locate trapped miners, and
ensuring there are extra supplies of oxygen available in case of an
emergency will give our miners a better chance at surviving an
accident. This new law and the safeguards that it brings will go a
long way in making sure that our coal miners leave their job safe
and secure at the end of the day."
"It is imperative that we do everything in our power to ensure
the safety of Illinois miners," said Sen. Deanna Demuzio,
D-Carlinville. "This legislation provides common-sense actions such
as requiring lifelines in our mines to make sure that miners can
find their way to the surface even if their vision is impaired from
an accident. We should do all that we can to ensure that all of
Illinois' miners return home to their families each night."
Senate Bill 929 includes provisions that:
SCSRs are designed to supply an individual with one hour of oxygen
for use in an emergency situation and are currently required by
federal regulation to be available to miners. While SCSRs can
provide some protection, more than an hour of travel is required to
reach the surface of many of Illinois' mines. Therefore, every miner
will be required to wear an SCSR while underground, and companies
will be required to place caches of SCSRs throughout the mine for
use during a longer escape.
Require installation of an emergency communication and tracking
system in every mine in Illinois: The new legislation requires
the installation of a wireless communication device capable of
receiving emergency communications from the surface at any location
throughout a mine. Mine operators will be required to install in or
around the mine any and all equipment necessary to transmit
emergency communications. In addition, a tracking system providing
real-time monitoring of the physical location of each person
underground will be required. Operators must install the wireless
tracking equipment necessary for such monitoring and provide every
miner with a tracking device to be worn while underground.
Establish a Mine Technology Task Force: In order to ensure
that the best available mine safety technologies are in use
underground, the legislation calls for the formation of a task force
consisting of representatives of the United Mine Workers of America,
coal operators, academia and the communications industry. The task
force will review the existing technologies and submit its findings
to the State Mining Board. The mine safety technologies must be
provided in each underground mine once this equipment is approved by
the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration and is
Increase standards for Illinois mine rescue stations:
Illinois currently operates mine rescue stations in Springfield,
Benton, Harrisburg and Sparta. However, only two of those stations
are certified by the Mine Safety and Health Administration.
Additionally, the state has agreements with all the underground
mines to provide personnel to staff the stations, but there are no
stipulations on how many people each company must provide. The new
legislation mandates reasonable participation in mine rescue teams
by coal companies and requires certification of all mine rescue
Require mines to be equipped with lifelines and "tag-lines":
State law already requires that each mine have two different ways of
exiting a mine in the event of an emergency, each marked with
reflectors. However, these reflectors can be impossible to locate in
the event of a fire. To ensure that all miners can escape quickly,
this provision requires lifelines along the escape routes. The
lifelines will be required to have cones indicating the direction to
the surface. This will allow miners to hold the lifeline and find
their way to the surface, avoiding any disorientation due to
impaired visibility. The legislation also requires tag-lines, which
miners will be required to use in the event of an emergency. The
tag-lines connect a group of miners together, preventing individual
miners from becoming lost.
Require return entryways to be clearly marked to aid in egress:
In addition to the two escape routes mandated by state law,
every mine has a third passageway that is used as a return. The new
legislation requires that the return entry be marked with reflectors
or other signage to give a clear indication of an alternative path
to the surface in the event the mandated escape routes are blocked.
[to top of second column]
Require adequate transportation to be available for workers:
While mine operators must maintain a vehicle suitable to transport
sick or injured workers, transportation is not mandated in any other
circumstance. Therefore, an entire unit or group of miners could be
left without mechanical transportation for a distance of many miles
underground. In most instances, this distance would far exceed a
miner's ability to walk out of a mine while using an SCSR. In order
to remedy this situation, the legislation mandates that mechanical
transportation be available on each working section of a mine and
that this transportation be of adequate size to transport all miners
working in said section to the surface.
Require stricter certification standards for independent
contractor supervisors: Illinois mining operations routinely use
contractors for specialized projects or to assist the regular work
force. Unlike the mining work force, contractors are not certified
by the state and may not have received adequate training. This
legislation requires mine operators to have at least one certified
independent contractor supervisor to oversee independent contractors
or their employees.
The new legislation amends the Coal Mining Act to
require that individuals who supervise underground mine surface
facilities, coal preparation plants and independent contractors
engaged in the construction, demolition or dismantling of facilities
obtain competency certification from the state's Office of Mines and
Require stricter certification standards for general surface
In order to ensure
the safety of miners, the legislation prohibits methane extraction
from sealed areas of active mines, as well as from abandoned mines
that are attached to active work sites, unless specific safety
measures are in place.
Create guidelines for methane extraction:
The new legislation requires the construction of a rescue chamber in
underground mines in order to protect miners against potential
hazards in case of an emergency. The chamber is to be equipped with
first-aid materials, an oxygen-generating device and proper
accommodations for people underground awaiting rescue.
Require construction of rescue chambers in underground mines:
In order to
ensure a quick and efficient means of disseminating duties and
responsibilities to those involved in mining emergency response, the
legislation permits the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to
use the telecommunications center maintained by the Illinois
Emergency Management Agency.
Provide for use of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency
Telecommunications Center for emergency response:
"This legislation is the result of collaborative efforts between
the state and the coal industry and … will help Illinois remain a
leader in mine safety," said Joe Angleton, director of the Office of
Mines and Minerals, Department of Natural Resources. "As the coal
industry re-emerges in the state, we're determined to offer the
highest possible level of protection to our men and women who go
underground each day."
Illinois coal miner safety is the No. 1 priority of the state's
Office of Mines and Minerals. State law requires a mine be inspected
once a month; however, state mine inspectors often visit mining
operations more often to ensure compliance. Routine inspections of
coal mines include checking for proper ventilation and hazardous
conditions underground and on the surface of a mine, ensuring roof
and rib control procedures are being followed, and making sure
miners are working safely and properly.
In April, Blagojevich announced the completion of the third
consecutive year that Illinois coal mines have gone without a
fatality, a milestone never before achieved in Illinois. While the
past 36 months are proof that the state's aggressive mine safety
measures are helping to keep miners safe, Senate Bill 929 will
further improve mine safety.
The legislation is effective immediately.
Illinois' coal industry is growing for the first time in over a
decade. Three new mines are expected to come on line in Illinois in
2006 -- further evidence that the coal industry is making a comeback
in Illinois. The industry began to decline in the 1990s, after
tougher federal sulfur emission standards were put in place. Since
then, advances in clean-coal technology have made it possible to
burn Illinois coal and still meet the strictest air-quality
standards in the nation.
Since coming into office, Blagojevich has demonstrated his
commitment to revitalizing Illinois' coal industry:
The governor signed a comprehensive mine safety bill that will
help keep Illinois miners safe in case of a mine emergency.
Blagojevich also has led an effort with the Illinois
congressional delegation to tout Illinois' advantages as a site for
the U.S. Department of Energy's proposed project to make electric
power and hydrogen fuel from coal with near-zero harmful emissions.
The FutureGen project site is expected to be chosen within the next
In July 2003, Blagojevich signed a law that added $300 million in
revenue bonds to the Coal Revival Program, which provides major tax
and financing incentives to large clean-coal-fueled projects.
Since 2003, the state has invested $64.7 million in coal
development projects, including the Peabody Energy Electric Prairie
State project in Washington County and the Taylorville Energy
Center, a coal gasification project in Christian County. Also, $45
million has been provided as grants to Illinois coal operators who
upgrade their facilities to make their product more competitive, as
well as more than $11 million for advanced research through the
Illinois Clean Coal Institute.
[News release from the governor's