Aggregate industry ally joins MSHA

By |  January 11, 2018

Aggregate industry stakeholders were optimistic last year about the possibility of Ed Elliott, the former safety and health director at Rogers Group, being nominated for assistant secretary of labor at the Mine Safety & Health Administration (MSHA).

The nomination ultimately went to David Zatezalo, a former coal executive whom the Senate later confirmed as the head of MSHA. The coal lobby reportedly poured tens of millions of dollars into President Donald Trump’s campaign, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a coal man now heads MSHA.

Despite missing out on the top post, the aggregate industry secured a victory when Elliott was named a senior advisor at the agency. Elliott’s hiring is vital because the majority of mines and miners in the United States fall within the agency’s metal/nonmetal sector. Aggregate operations, of course, make up part of metal/nonmetal.

A quick analysis of the number of metal/nonmetal mines in operation across the nation – and a quantified comparison of our sector to coal – offers staggering takeaways. Ninety percent of the mines MSHA oversees are in metal/nonmetal, and 74 percent of all miners work in a metal/nonmetal mine.

The disparity between the two sectors has grown over the years, with MSHA overseeing about half the number of coal mines today than it did 20 years ago. Likewise, MSHA oversees significantly fewer coal miners today than it did just six years ago. Back in 2012, MSHA oversaw about 143,000 coal miners. As of 2016, MSHA was overseeing about 85,000.

In all fairness, the number of metal/nonmetal mines MSHA oversaw in 2016 was at a low not seen in nearly two decades. The number of miners working in metal/nonmetal in 2016 was also down slightly from prior years.

But the overall numbers are still overwhelmingly in metal/nonmetal’s favor, so the selection of Elliott as a senior advisor is prudent on the agency’s part.

A little about Elliott

For those who aren’t familiar with Elliott, he has a stellar reputation as a mine safety advocate who devoted more than 30 years of his career to the aggregate industry. Elliott helped lead a charge for the MSHA Part 46 safety training requirement, and he at one point testified before Congress on safety innovation.

Elliott’s peers consider him to be a highly credible man with the characteristics of a leader – one who, as a producer, worked successfully with MSHA. Expect to see Elliott on the front lines of our industry throughout 2018, as he’s tasked with engaging operational leaders and developing strategies to enhance mine safety and health.

Knowing Elliott spent so many years in aggregate sites and that he’s working alongside MSHA’s head, producers should be somewhat optimistic about the prospect of practical change coming to the agency.

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About the Author:

Kevin Yanik is editor-in-chief of Pit & Quarry. He can be reached at 216-706-3724 or

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