Miners Need Tracking & Communications for Safety (Rep. Jim Matheson)

The disaster at the Crandall Canyon mine in August, which claimed 9 lives, focused my effort on improving mine safety. One of the most difficult aspects of the mine collapse was not knowing where the trapped miners were when the cave-in occurred. It made for an excruciating ordeal for the families, the mine owner and the mine rescuers.

The lack of tracking and communications left rescuers with the frustrating scenario of trying to drill through hundreds of feet of rock with the hope of locating survivors. While mines generally have reliable communications systems in place, most mines have properties that make implementation of current technology difficult. For example, the open air pathway required for radio signals and WiFi does not exist.

My bill seeks to speed up the development of innovative, next-generation mine tracking and communications technology. It directs the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to establish an initiative to promote the research, development and demonstration of miner tracking and communications systems. There's no time to waste, in order to spare mining families, and mining communities from a similar ordeal.