Speech to the 2013 National Coal Mine Rescue Competition

Remarks of Hal Quinn, to the participants of the 2013 National Coal Mine Rescue Competition.

Personally, it’s a privilege to be here among so many dedicated people.  You represent that rare but essential quality of any true community –men and women who are sincerely dedicated to others — to your fellow miners, to your profession, and to your communities.

No industry can have too many of your kind.

That’s why standing here and looking out at this impressive audience is inspiring.  Our industry can be proud that it takes a hall this big to honor so many who give back so much to their profession.

We all know that in a perfect world, we wouldn’t be here.  There would be no need for mine rescue teams any more than policemen, firemen or others in emergency services.   But because the world isn’t perfect, we have to prepare for its imperfections.

Your professions and skills are called upon in our darker moments, when by oversight or by accident, bad things happen.  Despite the best intentions of the best of us, we’ll always need your help when we fail.

I would be happier still if we never needed to call upon your skills and your courage, if we never had another mine accident.  In the same way, our country would be a better place if it never needed first responders either.

We know mining can’t be perfect because people aren’t perfect.  But we can … we must … continue to aim for perfection.  We must use our experience, out training and our technologies to get better at mine safety just as we work to get better at mine rescue.

I’m happy to stand here today and tell you that we are doing just that.  From individual miners and individual mining operations to companies and their trade association, we are seeing a new spirit in mine safety – a new dedication to our goal of bringing all of our people home safely. A dedication that I hope matches your own.

One example is NMA’s CORESafety initiative.  It’s an ambitious new way of addressing safety concerns.  I say “new”, yet it borrows from the best practices and state-of-the-art safety systems, practices and techniques that have been proven in other industries and in other countries.

Our ambition – to become the safest mining industry in the world – isn’t confined to our borders.  The architects of CORESafety searched far and wide – willing to learn from anyone anywhere we found a technique or a technology that can help us achieve our goal – to eliminate fatalities and cut our injury rate in half in five years.

CORESafety is not about saving miners after accidents.  It’s about preventing accidents that endanger miners.  That means we want to make your service less demanding by reducing the need for it.  And hopefully one day we will eliminate the need for putting you in harm’s way.

Another example of the new spirit in mine safety is Alpha Natural Resources’ new state-of-the-art safety and training center.  Alpha calls it the Running Right Leadership Academy.  I call it an example of the future of coal mining in America.  It heralds the new day that’s coming.

Until that day comes, a day when serious mining accidents are problems of the past, we will be meeting like this – honoring your selfless dedication that has been on impressive display this week.  We will be expressing our gratitude and showing our admiration for what you do year round.

So from NMA to all of you and your families, I can only say thank you—as mine rescue professionals, thank you for everything you do in the service to your fellow miners; as coal miners, thank you for all that you do which makes and keeps our country strong.

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