David Tabet is the Energy and Minerals Program Manager for the Utah Geological Survey which is a division of the Department of Natural Resources. He reported before the Utah Mine Commission on their role as it relates to mining.
The mission of the Utah Geological Survey is to provide timely scientific information about Utah's geologic environment, resources and hazards, UGS does research, not regulation.
The UGS has a strong commitment on outreach and is committed to cooperation with local, state and federal agencies, universities, industry and private groups to promote economic development and public safety in Utah. They want to help decision makers and the public more knowledgeable about natural resource issues facing the state.
Their goals are: to identify, assess and encourage prudent development of Utah's mineral, energy, ground water, and paleontological resources; to identify, inventory, assess, and mitigate Utah's geologic hazards and subsurface environmental hazards to promote safe and responsible land use; to serve as a repository of geologic samples and date for Utah; to provide accurate and timely geologic, topographic, and energy information and advice to government, industry, educators, and the public; and to prepare, publish and distribute maps and reports of the geology of the state.
As for coal research, the UGS conducts research to understand the nature and extent of coal resources, and characteristics that may affect usage. They are strictly non-regulatory and work cooperatively with industry. The UGS has the ability and authority to use and store company confidential resource data.
They track coal production to monitor health and sustainability of the coal industry. In addition, they report research results to RAC, GOPB, and citizens of Utah, and receive funding from USGS, BLM, DOE, OSM and MSHA.
In 1987, the first annual coal report was published at UGS, co-authored by UGS and the Utah Energy Office. From 1988-2000, the coal reports were published by the Utah Energy Office and later the Office of Energy and Resource Planning in DNR.
The coal report for 2001 was written by UGS and published by DNR Office of Energy and Resource Planning. For 2002-2003 the reports were published by the DNR Office of Energy and Resource Planning. From 2004-the present the coal reports have been published by the UGS.
These coal reports present an annual snapshot of the coal industry from one time visits by Energy Office and UGS personnel, and the information provided is totally voluntary by the industry. No underground inspection of mines is made: information is compiled from questionnaires sent to operators, public sources and interviews during the annual visit. The information on company activities is sent to operators for review and approval.
Commission chairman, Scott Matheson asked Tabet if any of the safety records for the operators are considered for the coal report. Tabet said those statistics are available from MSHA. Tabet said they would be happy to provide that kind of information.
David Litvin from the Utah Mining Association said the report is a valuable and beneficial document.
Matheson wondered to what extent there is a working relationship between the geological survey and the seismologists. Tabet said yes there is a working relationship for identifying geological hazards.
More work needs to be done in separating and identifying mining earthquakes from naturally induced earthquakes.
Sen. Mike Dmitrich said the annual coal report puts a positive light on the coal industry which is now under attack in the media.
Matheson wondered if an availability of resources for this kind of research could enhance the work they are doing. Tabet said they have a limited staff and budget and they report on a wide variety of resources. They report on coal, gas and hard rock resources. They also collect information on abandoned mines. They don't have a lot of funding.
Matheson wondered what is missing now from the annual coal report and if it could be enhanced to be an even more beneficial document for industry.
Dennis O'Dell commission member wondered if and how the geological survey identifies hazards and shares that information with the mine operators.
Tabet said they identify urban hazards, not as related to mining. They are not an engineering organization. They have maps of land slide areas and maps of active fault sites that people can examine.
Tabet said he would talk to his people and put together some recommendations for the commission on any ideas they might have on making what they do more valuable to the mining industry.