Coal Mining Acts, Rules and Regulations in the USA


May 5, 2011 (Coal Geology) Coal mining has historically led to various environmental damages apart from unfortunate loss of hundreds of coal miners. In present day, coal producers have to go through stringent application process for a mining permit. Various federal and state laws now protect the coal miners and the earth making the mining industry safer and environmentally conscious. It is important to evaluate a site before the establishment of the mine which ensures none of the rules would be violated during mining operation. Coal mining is one of the most regulated industries in the United States of America and all of the “coal consulting firms” in the US should have in depth knowledge of such laws to serve the client in best possible way. This article details some of the most important rules and regulations in the coal industry in the US, common safety practices, and phone numbers to call during an mine emergency.


1981: In the US, the first law related to coal mining established in 1981:

  • Prohibited operators to employ children below 12 years of age
  • Set minimum ventilation standard in deep mines.

1910: The Bureau of Mines was established in 1910 when the death in the coal mine exceeded 2000. The Bureau of Mines was responsible for conducting research and to reduce accidents in the coal mining industry. However, Bureau did not have power to send inspectors to the mines till 1941.

1947: Congress authorized the formulation of the first code of federal regulations for mine safety.


1952: The Federal Coal Mine Safety Act of 1952 was established.

  • Annual inspections in certain underground coal mines started this year.
  • The Bureau of Mines now had limited enforcement authority, including power to issue violation notices and imminent danger withdrawal orders.
  • Authorized Bureau of Mines to assess civil penalties against mine operators for noncompliance with withdrawal orders or for refusing to give inspectors access to mine property.
  • In 1966, the Federal Coal Mine Safety Act was applied to all underground mines.


1966: The Federal Metal and Nonmetallic Mine Safety Act of 1966: first federal law directly regulating non-coal mines appear in 1966.

1969: The Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969 (Coal Act) was more comprehensive and more stringent than any previous Federal legislation governing the mining industry.

  • The Coal Act included surface as well as underground coal mines within its scope.
  • Required two annual inspections of every surface coal mine and four at every underground coal mine.
  • The Coal Act also required monetary penalties for all violations, and established criminal penalties for knowing and willful violations.
  • The Coal Act included specific procedures for the development of improved mandatory health and safety standards, and provided compensation for miners who were totally and permanently disabled by the progressive respiratory disease caused by the inhalation of fine coal dust pneumoconiosis or “black lung”.


1973: Mining Enforcement and Safety Administration (MESA) was established as a new departmental agency separate from the Bureau of Mines. MESA assumed the safety and health enforcement functions formerly carried out by the Bureau to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest between the enforcement of mine safety and health standards and the Bureau’s responsibilities for mineral resource development. (MESA was the predecessor organization to MSHA, prior to March 9, 1978.)

1977: Federal Mine Safety and Health Act (Mine Act) was established in 1977 which currently governs MSHA‘s activities.

  • The Mine Act amended the 1969 Coal Act in a number of significant ways, and consolidated all federal health and safety regulations of the mining industry, coal as well as non-coal mining, under a single statutory scheme.
  • The Mine Act strengthened and expanded the rights of miners, and enhanced the protection of miners from retaliation for exercising such rights.
  • Mining fatalities dropped sharply under the Mine Act from 272 in 1977 to 86 in 2000.
  • The Mine Act also transferred responsibility for carrying out its mandates from the Department of the Interior to the Department of Labor, and named the new agency the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA).
  • Additionally, the Mine Act established the independent Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission to provide for independent review of the majority of MSHA’s enforcement actions.

1977: Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA)

2006: the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act (MINER Act). The Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act of 2006, also known as the MINER Act, was signed by President George W. Bush on June 15, 2006. This legislation, the most significant mine safety legislation in 30 years, amends the Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 and contains a number of provisions to improve safety and health in America’s mines. The MINER Act amended the Mine Act to require

  • mine-specific emergency response plans in underground coal mines;
  • new regulations regarding mine rescue teams and sealing of abandoned areas;
  • Required prompt notification of mine accidents; and enhanced civil penalties.

Modern regulations

Presently, mining is regulated by MSHA, which employs nearly one safety inspector for every four coal mines. Underground coal mines are thoroughly inspected at least four times annually by MSHA inspectors. In addition, miners can report violations, and request additional inspections. Miners with such concerns for their work safety cannot be penalized with any threat to the loss of employment.

Immediately Reportable Accidents and Injuries are: (CALL 1800-746-1553)

  1. A death of an individual at a mine;
  2. An injury to an individual at a mine which has a reasonable potential to cause death;
  3. An entrapment of an individual for more than thirty minutes or which has a reasonable potential to cause death;
  4. An unplanned inundation of a mine by a liquid or gas;
  5. An unplanned ignition or explosion of gas or dust;
  6. In underground mines, an unplanned fire not extinguished within 10 minutes of discovery; in surface mines and surface areas of underground mines, an unplanned fire not extinguished within 30 minutes of discovery;
  7. An unplanned ignition or explosion of a blasting agent or an explosive;
  8. An unplanned roof fall at or above the anchorage zone in active workings where roof bolts are in use; or, an unplanned roof or rib fall in active workings that impairs ventilation or impedes passage;
  9. A coal or rock outburst that causes withdrawal of miners or which disrupts regular mining activity for more than one hour;
  10. An unstable condition at an impoundment, refuse pile, or culm bank which requires emergency action in order to prevent failure, or which causes individuals to evacuate an area; or, failure of an impoundment, refuse pile, or culm bank;
  11. Damage to hoisting equipment in a shaft or slope which endangers an individual or which interferes with use of the equipment for more than thirty minutes; and
  12. An event at a mine which causes death or bodily injury to an individual not at the mine at the time the event occurs.


Other federal laws that affect both of the surface and underground coal mining industry include the following:

  • Migratory Bird Act (1914)
  • Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act (1934)
  • Multiple Use – Sustained Use Act (1960)
  • Endangered Species Act (1963)
  • Wilderness Act (1964)
  • National Historic Preservation Act (1966)
  • National Environmental Policy Act (1969)
  • Bald Eagle Protection Act (1969)
  • Mining and Minerals Policy Act (1970)
  • Endangered Species Act (1973)
  • Forest and Rangeland Resource Planning Act (1974)
  • Safe Drinking Water Act (1974)
  • Archeological and Historical Preservation Act (1974)
  • Noise Control Act (1976)
  • National Forests Management Act (1976)
  • Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (1976)
  • Clean Water Act (1977), which regulates the discharge of pollutants into water
  • Soil and Water Resources Conservation Act (1977)
  • American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978
  • Clean Air Act (1990)


  1. Coal Regulations:
  2. Miner Act:
  3. Report Accidents:
  4. United States National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. About NIOSH”.
  5. MSHA:

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