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Clash of the Titans

There’s nothing like ending the year with a few fireworks and a little controversy. That’s pretty much what you get when the head of the nation’s most powerful mining regulatory agency butts heads with one of the industry’s firebrand columnists.

The two parties in question are Jim Sharpe, Rock Products columnist, and Joe Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health.

If you’re a regular reader of Rock Products, you have no doubt noticed that Jim Sharpe is often highly critical of MSHA’s approach to regulatory enforcement. And to be fair, some of those same criticisms are echoed by our legal columnists from the law offices of Patton Boggs, as well as on occasion by our other health and safety analysts Randy Logsdon and Ellen Smith.

In keeping with our mission to get you the best information available, and offer analysis and opinion from as many sides of the story as possible, I engaged Assistant Secretary Main in an extensive conversation, and gave him a chance to elaborate on some of the programs and policies originating from MSHA. We also dug into some of the major complaints I hear in the field when visiting aggregates operations.

To his credit, Main answered every question and didn’t dodge the heat. His exclusive comments will appear in Rock Products as a three-part series starting with this issue.

No one likes regulation, but as we all know, it’s not going away any time soon. The bad apples in the industry have made sure of that. The real questions are, how can the industry and MSHA work to create a sane approach to regulation that punishes the bad guys and lets the good guys keep doing their job; and is it possible to foster understanding on both sides that results in a more cooperative rather than confrontational environment? For that, it takes two to tango.

In closing, I’d just like to say thank you for all of your positive comments and support as we worked to re-envision Rock Products this year, its first under the ownership of Mining Media International. There is plenty more excitement to come.

Happy holidays to everyone.

Mark S. Kuhar, editor
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Member: Construction Writers Association