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Joe Riney, NvMA

JOE RINEY

Those of us who work in the mining industry know that safety and mining go hand in hand. While a public misconception is that the industry is a dangerous one to work in, it is far away from the reality of modern mining. The industry has spent years breaking down every task on the work site to find the best ways to mitigate the hazards miners face.

There were over 224 active mining operations in Nevada in 2018, with over 28 million hours worked. That is a staggering number of work hours, making it easy to assume there would be a significant amount of injuries. However, 87% of Nevada mines come in at under the United States national average injury rate for mining. Average incident rates are calculated annually by a formula that weighs exposure hours, reportable injuries, lost time injuries, and days lost. Even more impressive are the 174 mines that did not have a single reportable injury.

Miners from all over will gather at Lake Tahoe the first week of September for the 41st annual Nevada Mining Association Convention. The highlight of the event is honoring the best of the best at the Safety and Reclamation Awards Luncheon. This year’s event will celebrate 53 individuals and 34 mine operations for their dedication to workplace safety. The individuals being recognized all take safety above and beyond, making sure that their coworkers go home safe and healthy every day. The 53 individuals were nominated and chosen by their colleagues. Over 150 people in total were nominated. The 34 operators met a series of safety data points, based on type of mine, number of employees and reportable injury statistics. We receive these data points directly from the Mine Safety & Health Administration, so it is confirmed information.

The number of nominations the Nevada Mining Association receives has increased every year, which is not surprising. With over 13,000 miners working in Nevada and every single one of them making safety their daily priority, there are going to be multiple safety champions in every Nevada mine.

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Safety is not just about the people; it is also about the environment and wildlife. A great example is Judy Bowman who works at the Round Mountain mine. Judy walks the leach pads daily to check the irrigation systems and ensure that solution is not ponding anywhere. Judy corrects any issues she comes across, which in turn makes things safer for area wildlife. She also spends a significant amount of time training others on what to look for and why correcting something as small as a little irrigation component can make a huge difference. Jody is receiving a safety champion award this year.

Another example is Jesse Allen, the drill program manager at Long Canyon mine. Drillers have had one of the higher injury rates in the industry, suffering hand injuries while changing drill heads and rods. Under Jesse’s leadership the group has worked 506 days with zero harm. He puts in lots of time after normal hours to provide support for the safety of his entire team. Jesse will receive a safety award in the General Supervisor category.

After 11 years working in the mining industry I am still in awe at the dedication and professionalism of our Nevada Miners. You are without a doubt mining’s most precious resource.

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Joe Riney is the Director of Workforce Engagement for the Nevada Mining Association.

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