CARTERVILLE -- A final rule announcement on respirable coal dust Wednesday has prompted the phone to ring at SIU's Illinois Coal Development Park.
"We've already gotten several calls for help. A couple of mines have called us," said facility manager John Pulliam.
The Labor Department's Mine Safety and Health Administration issued a long-awaited final rule on respirable coal dust that reduces the allowable exposure, increases sampling and requires faster corrective actions.
Scheduled for publication in the May 1 Federal Register and to take effect Aug. 1, the final rule lowers the amount of coal dust to which miners may be exposed from 2.0 to 1.5 milligrams per cubic meter of air.
"This leaves mines scrambling," Pulliam said, noting however that the rule had been under discussion for some time and many in the mining business were privy to it.
SIU coal research officials showcased a new dust control facility at the park in March.
Only the second of its kind in the United States, the new facility has unique simulations to test new methods and technologies that monitor and control coal mine dust in longwall mining operations.
Several mining companies have consulted with development park researchers to help meet allowable coal dust standards.
Allowable coal dust safety standards have become more stringent since a major West Virginia mining incident in 2010 left several workers dead because of ventilation problems.
Sen. Tom Harkin, D-IA, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, applauded the Labor Department's rule.
"Today is an historic day for America's hardworking coal miners. With these new protections, they will no longer have to go to work living in fear that they will one day get sick and suffer from black lung disease," Harkin said in a news release.
The rule has already met major opposition. Murray Energy Corporation of St. Clairsville, Ohio, announced the same day the rule was announced that the company was filing a lawsuit against the Department of Labor. The suit challenges what the company described as a "deeply flawed and irrational final rule."