MINES, U.S. BUREAU OF. In 1910, Congress passed the Organic Act (Public Law 179), officially creating the U.S. Bureau of Mines (USBM). Dr. Joseph A. Holmes, a geologist and professor, was the bureau’s first director. The bureau’s first priority under Holmes’s direction was the reduction of the alarmingly high number of deaths in mining accidents. In 1913, however, the bureau’s scope of authority expanded to include the collection, analysis, and dissemination of economic data with in the mining industry. In 1925, the USBM was moved from the Department of the Interior to the Department of Commerce, where it became the principal collector of mineral statistics and acquired the responsibility of producing, conserving, and exploiting helium gas, important at the time to national defense.
The influence of the labor movement in the late 1930s paved the way for the Coal Mine Inspection Act of 1941. This act gave the USBM authority to inspect mines for safety conditions and recommend corrective measures, although enforcement power remained limited until Congress passed the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969, establishing mandatory standards and making it possible for the USBM to research alternative mining procedures. The Federal Coal Mine Safety and Health Amendments Act of 1977 addressed for the first time regulatory procedures concerning coal, metal, and nonmetal mining operations, as well as research germane to all three types of mining.
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