[Federal Register Volume 82, Number 97 (Monday, May 22, 2017)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 23139-23140]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2017-10474]

Rules and Regulations
                                                Federal Register

This section of the FEDERAL REGISTER contains regulatory documents 
having general applicability and legal effect, most of which are keyed 
to and codified in the Code of Federal Regulations, which is published 
under 50 titles pursuant to 44 U.S.C. 1510.

The Code of Federal Regulations is sold by the Superintendent of Documents. 


Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 97 / Monday, May 22, 2017 / Rules and 

[[Page 23139]]


Mine Safety and Health Administration

30 CFR Parts 56 and 57

[Docket No. MSHA-2014-0030]
RIN 1219-AB87

Examinations of Working Places in Metal and Nonmetal Mines

AGENCY: Mine Safety and Health Administration, Labor.

ACTION: Final rule; delay of effective date.


SUMMARY: The Mine Safety and Health Administration is delaying the 
effective date of the Agency's final rule that amends existing 
standards for examination of working places in metal and nonmetal 
mines. The effective date of that rule is extended to October 2, 2017. 
This extension offers additional time for MSHA to provide stakeholders 
training and compliance assistance.

DATES: The effective date of the rule published January 23, 2017 (82 FR 
7680) is delayed to October 2, 2017.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Sheila A. McConnell, Director, Office 
of Standards, Regulations, and Variances, MSHA, at 
[email protected] (email); 202-693-9440 (voice); or 202-693-
9441 (facsimile).


I. Delay of Effective Date

    On January 23, 2017, MSHA published a final rule in the Federal 
Register (82 FR 7680) amending the Agency's standards for the 
examination of working places in metal and nonmetal mines. The final 
rule was scheduled to become effective on May 23, 2017.
    On March 27, 2017 (82 FR 15173), MSHA published a proposed rule to 
delay the effective date of the final rule to July 24, 2017. MSHA 
solicited comments on the limited issue of whether to extend the 
effective date to July 24, 2017, and whether this extension offered an 
appropriate length of time for MSHA to provide stakeholders training 
and compliance assistance. Commenters who supported a delay of the 
effective date stated that the delay would allow time for the Agency to 
develop and distribute compliance assistance materials, permit review 
of the final rule by the President's appointees, and allow for 
resolution of the legal challenge in the Eleventh Circuit Court of 
    Other commenters supported the 60-day extension saying that a two-
month delay is more than adequate for the metal and nonmetal mining 
community to achieve compliance with the new standard. One commenter 
did not anticipate any difficulty in implementing the requirements in 
the final rule. Another commenter noted that a two-month delay is more 
than adequate for the mining community to achieve compliance since the 
final rule made only minor changes to the existing standards.
    However, several commenters supported delaying the rule's effective 
date beyond the proposed date of July 24, 2017, to provide MSHA with 
sufficient time to complete outreach and compliance assistance 
activities focused on the final rule's requirements to assure 
compliance by operators and consistent enforcement by MSHA inspectors. 
The amount of time commenters suggested for these activities varied 
    One commenter recommended an extension of 120 days from the May 23, 
2017, effective date to give MSHA sufficient time to fully inform and 
educate mine operators with online materials and stakeholder education 
sessions. The commenter stated that, in his state, severe weather 
events since the January 23, 2017, publication of the final rule 
hampered MSHA's educational and informational efforts. Specifically, 
the commenter stated that these weather events had shut down mining 
operations and washed out roads, making it impossible to reach mine 
sites and difficult to schedule information meetings in nearby towns. 
The commenter further stated that extra time afforded by a 120-day 
extension would allow mine operators and contractors to implement new 
systems that are necessary to properly manage the additional paperwork, 
including the adjustment of examination forms and to fully comply with 
the additional data retention guidelines. The commenter believed that 
while larger mining companies would be able to enhance their systems 
quickly, that may not be the case for small mines with few 
administrative staff.
    Another commenter suggested at least a 6-month extension to 
November 27, 2017, to give the regulated community time to comply with 
the final rule. A few commenters supported a longer delay of the 
effective date: One suggested January 23, 2018, and others suggested 
May 23, 2018. These commenters stated as reasons for the delay that the 
rule required new training, revising documents, extra expenses, 
resources and time.
    MSHA agrees that small mines may need additional time to comply 
with the final rule. Based on data reported to MSHA, nearly 90 percent 
of metal and nonmetal mines employ fewer than 20 miners. In addition, 
almost all (98 percent) of MNM mines are surface operations. Over half 
of all metal and nonmetal mines are surface sand and gravel or crushed 
stone operations that operate intermittently or seasonally and employ 
five or fewer miners. Many of these small mines are in remote 
locations, making compliance assistance time-consuming for MSHA.
    MSHA also agrees with commenters that mine operators, especially 
small mine operators, will need time to implement recordkeeping systems 
to comply with the final rule. MSHA understands that large and small 
mines may need time to adjust schedules and in other ways modify the 
way they currently do business to comply with the rule. The extension 
provides an industry which includes over 11,000 mine operators and 
employs more than 200,000 miners and contractors enough time to 
effectuate compliance, minimize mine operator recordkeeping burden, and 
train miners prior to the rule's effective date.
    MSHA is developing a variety of compliance assistance materials to 
assist the industry. The extension provides MSHA the time and 
flexibility to make these materials available to stakeholders and post 
them on MSHA's Web site (www.msha.gov); hold informational stakeholder 
meetings at various locations around the country; and focus on 
compliance assistance visits in other

[[Page 23140]]

areas of the country, as well as assure all issues at these meetings 
and visits are addressed. Additional time will also allow MSHA to train 
its inspectors to assure consistent enforcement. MSHA will make the 
Agency's inspector training materials available to the mining community 
to assist miners and mine operators in effectively implementing the 
rule, thus enhancing the safety of miners.
    Several commenters, including labor unions, did not support the 
proposed extension, stating that the May 2017 date was sufficient for 
mine operators to comply with the final rule. One stated that the 60-
day extension is not justified and is potentially harmful because the 
final rule made only a few, simple changes to the existing standards 
which have been in place for 38 years.
    As discussed, most metal and nonmetal mines are small operations 
with limited staff, limited administrative staff, and limited 
resources, and many are located in remote areas. These small mines may 
have limited access or no access to the internet at the mine site and 
may rely on stakeholder meetings and other MSHA in-person services to 
acquire the knowledge to comply with the rule. MSHA is providing 
educational, technical, and compliance assistance for affected miners 
and mine operators. In MSHA's experience with previous changes to metal 
and nonmetal standards and regulations, outreach to these small mine 
operators requires MSHA to be flexible regarding different approaches 
that may be needed and regarding the time necessary to assure that all 
miners and mine operators can comply with the rule.
    MSHA has concluded that miners' protections are assured when 
operators and miners are provided needed informational and 
instructional materials regarding the rule's requirements. The 
extension of the effective date provides MSHA the flexibility the 
Agency needs to assure compliance, thereby increasing protections for 

II. Other Issues

    On March 17, 2017, petitioners filed a Petition for Review of the 
final Examinations rule in the United States Court of Appeals for the 
Eleventh Circuit. Some commenters on the proposed rule to delay the 
effective date requested a stay of the effective date until the 
completion of this litigation and final adjudication of the validity of 
the final rule in federal court. One commenter suggested at least a 6-
month extension to November 27, 2017, or later to give the court time 
to issue a decision on the Petition for Review.
    Petitioners also filed a ``Motion for Emergency Stay'' with the 
Court. On May 3, the Department filed its response to the stay motion.
    Other commenters requested a delay until new officials from the 
current Administration and an Assistant Secretary appointed by the 
Administration have an opportunity to conduct a review of the final 
rule in accordance with the January 20, 2017, memorandum titled 
``Regulatory Freeze Pending Review'' released by the Chief of Staff of 
the White House. Several commenters also suggested that MSHA delay the 
effective date indefinitely until the rule's status is finally 
resolved. MSHA also received several comments objecting to the 
substantive requirements of the Examinations rule. These comments are 
outside the scope of the March 27, 2017, proposed rule, which was 
limited to delaying the rule's effective date to ensure compliance 
readiness. MSHA is not addressing these comments, as they are beyond 
the scope of this rulemaking.

III. Conclusion

    Having given due consideration to all comments received, MSHA has 
determined that it is appropriate to delay the effective date until 
October 2, 2017. As stated, this additional delay will address 
commenters' concerns regarding sufficient time for MSHA to inform and 
educate the mining community, including mines that operate 
intermittently. The extension also affords both large and small mine 
operators the needed time to implement recordkeeping systems to comply 
with the final rule. Also, an October 2, 2017, effective date provides 
more time and flexibility for MSHA to complete development of 
compliance assistance materials, make them available to stakeholders, 
hold informational meetings for stakeholders and conduct compliance 
assistance visits at metal and nonmetal mines throughout the country. 
Similarly, further extending the effective date permits more time for 
MSHA to address issues that may be raised during upcoming stakeholder 
meetings and compliance assistance visits and to train MSHA inspectors 
to help assure consistency in MSHA enforcement. MSHA believes that the 
training and compliance assistance provided to mine operators and 
miners during the effective date extension will enhance their 
understanding of the rule's requirements, thereby increasing 
protections for miners.

Patricia W. Silvey,
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health.
[FR Doc. 2017-10474 Filed 5-19-17; 8:45 am]