Requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in the case of a mine accident, to (Sec. 101):
Determine why the accident occurred;
Determine whether any laws were violated, and if so, refer the evidence to the Attorney General; and
Make recommendations to avoid any recurrence of the accident.
Requires an independent investigation by an independent investigation panel, with members appointed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, if either of the following is true (Sec. 101):
The accident had 3 or more deaths; or
The accident was of such severity or scale for potential or actual harm that the Secretary determines the accident merits an independent investigation.
Requires any independent investigation panel to (Sec. 101):
Assess and identify any factors or actions that caused or contributed to the accident;
Review any determinations made by the Secretary of Health and Human Services; and
Prepare and publish a report that includes the findings of the panel, the strengths and weaknesses of the Secretary's investigation, and any recommendations that would prevent the recurrence of the accident at other mines.
Authorizes the Secretary, or his or her designee, to issue subpoenas for the testimony of witnesses and for the production of information related to an inspection or investigation (Sec. 102).
Requires mine inspections to be conducted during various shifts and days of the week in which miners are normally present in the mine (Sec. 104).
Requires a mine to be placed in a status of "pattern", meaning that it has a pattern of recurring noncompliance or accidents and is therefore subject to increased inspections of 8 per year, if it is found to have any of the following (Sec. 202):
Citations for significant violations;
Citations issued for failure to comply with health and safety standards;
Citations for "flagrant violations";
Any withdrawal orders issued;
Accidents and injuries; or
A combination of citations, orders, accidents, or injuries.
Requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to evaluate the performance of each mine that is placed in pattern status every 90 days to determine if (Sec. 202):
The rate of citations during that time is in the top performing 35th percentile of such rates for mines of similar size and type;
The accident and injury rates during that time are in the top performing 35th percentile of such rates for mines of similar size and type;
The rate of citations has been reduced by 70 percent from the date that the mine was placed in pattern status; or
Any citations or withdrawal orders were issued during the time frame.
Requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to remove a mine from pattern status if during a 1-year period (Sec. 202):
The rate of citations and the accident and injury rates of the mine are in the top performing 25th percentile of such rates for mines of similar size and type;
The rate of citations has been reduced by 80 percent from the date that the mine was placed on pattern status; and
No citations or withdrawal orders were issued during the time frame.
Requires the following penalties to be issued if the provisions in the bill are violated (Secs. 302-303):
For operators who have not committed a previous violation, the operator shall be fined no more than $250,000, imprisoned for no more than 1 year, or both; or
For operators who have committed a previous violation, the operator shall be fined no more than $1 million, imprisoned for no more than 5 years, or both.
Prohibits discharge of or discrimination against mining employees in cases where the miner or another employee, representative, or applicant for employment has (Sec. 401):
Made a complaint regarding a safety or health violation in a mine;
Testified or is about to testify before any proceeding related to mine safety or health in a mine;
Refused to violate any provision of the act; or
Refused to perform his or her duties based on a "good-faith and reasonable belief" that the performance of such duties would pose a safety or health hazard to the miner or other mine employees.
Defines "good-faith belief" as a belief arising from circumstances in which a reasonable person concludes that there is a safety or health hazard, has communicated or attempted to communicate this concern to a mine operator, and has not received a response reasonably calculated to allay such concern (Sec. 401).
Requires temporary reinstatement of any employee terminated as the result of a safety or health complaint while the complaint of that termination is received by the Secretary, investigated by the Secretary, and remedied by the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission (Sec. 401).
Establishes new health and safety standards that include, but are not limited to, the following (Secs. 501-507):
Requires that coal miners be notified of any hazardous conditions, or conditions that violate a health or safety standard;
Increases the maximum amount of rock dust permissible in an underground area from 65 percent to 80 percent, and increases the amount of incombustible content allowed when methane is present in a ventilating current 0.4 percent for each 0.1 percent of methane;
Requires the operator of an underground coal mine to take samples that measure the total incombustible content of coal dust, rock dust, and other dust in the mine; and
Requires the Secretary to issue regulations regarding the utilization and installation of atmospheric monitoring systems.
Increases the federal assistance to states for development and enforcement of health and safety regulations from $10 million per fiscal year to $20 million per fiscal year (Sec. 602).
NOTE: THIS LEGISLATION NEEDED A TWO-THIRDS MAJORITY VOTE TO PASS