Mining has safest year, promising future in Arizona

2015 was the safest year on record for mining in the U.S.   Courtesy of Shutterstock

Mineral mining, which makes up a major part of Arizona’s economy, saw only 17 fatalities nationwide in 2015, which was the safest year on record for mining in America, according to the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration.

“Several factors contributed to this welcome safety record – fewer miners of course being one,” National Mining Association (NMA) Vice President of Communications Luke Popvich told Arizona Business Daily. “But we think the biggest factor is the increasing effectiveness of safety measures implemented among the biggest mines that three years ago started adopting safety measures from NMA’s CORESafety program.”

CORESafety is a voluntary set of best practices based on health and safety management systems used in other industries but tailored for mining. It also is the first such system to integrate leadership and culture into its preparedness plan. The goal of CORESafety is to reduce injuries by half and fatalities to zero in the first five years of implementation.

Its aimed is not post-accident measures to lessen the impact of accidents, but preventive measures that stop accidents from happening in the first place, Popovich said. NMA’s website has more information on this program, he said.

Mining has a $4.87 billion impact on Arizona’s economy, and Arizona mines are responsible for 65 percent of American copper production, including the Resolution Mine, which is one of largest copper mines in North America.

Thanks in part to CORESafery, Arizona's nearly 12,000 miners operate in safer work environments than ever before.

"Arizona has been a big factor in mining, especially copper mining, but also molybdenum,” Popovich said. Molybdenum is commonly used in steel alloys, medical imaging tools and in pollution controls for power plants.

Popovich also predicts that mining will generate more impact on Arizona’s economy moving forward.

"All commodities, especially metals, have suffered sharp and prolonged price declines as demand from slow-growing developing countries has slowed to a crawl,” Popovich said. “Signs are that we’re at or near the market bottom, so the outlook for the ‘red metal’ looks positive for the long term.”

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