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a miner

Bureau of Mines buried
by Republican budget cuts

December 31, 1995
Web posted at: 1:45 p.m. EST

From Reporter J.J. Green

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In keeping with their mandate to trim the fat, Republicans have taken the ax to the 85-year-old Bureau of Mines.

Republicans' promise

Some 1,200 bureau employees are not happy with their decision. "I'm angry," said one employee, Jaquennette Tate-Thomas. "There are a lot of people that are going to be on the street, not having jobs, not knowing where their next meal is coming from." (111K AIFF sound or 111K WAV sound)

But Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Ohio, who chairs the subcommittee that killed the bureau, defended the decision. He said the organization has outlived its usefulness. "The functions were moving to other agencies that were not in existence in 1910," Regula said.

exiting mine

The bureau was created in 1910 after a series of terrible mine accidents. In those days, more than a thousand miners died every year. Today, that number is fewer than 100. Some say that shows the bureau is of value, and blame the its demise on shady dealing. (604K QuickTime movie)

"There's a surreptitious deal reported between Ralph Regula and (Interior) Secretary (Bruce) Babbitt in which the Bureau of Mine's scalp was handed to Regula as his trophy in this budget row," said bureau employee Chuck Oddenino

Bureau of Mines

But the Bureau of Mine's role has changed dramatically since its early years. The Labor Department took over the its health and safety enforcement powers in 1973. The EPA now handles mine pollution issues.

Since the 1970s, the Bureau of Mines has been primarily a scientific research agency. It created technology used in the space shuttle's heat tiles and developed rescue equipment used in disasters such as the 1985 Mexico City earthquake.

Some bureau employees are moving to the Department of Energy and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Montana, fought to save the bureau. He said people who see mining as an ugly occupation are what killed off the agency.

"All these people who think that the production of wealth that comes from the earth is bad, I just want to see how they would live," Burns said. "It's very short-sighted and it's a 'phony baloney' argument."

Regula defends decision to kill Bureau
(77K AIFF sound or 77K WAV sound)
Burns fought to save it
(153K AIFF sound or 153K WAV sound)

Agency employees who are being let go worry about the men and women who work the mines.

"More miners will die because of this," said employee Carla Kertis. "A lot of our important research will be cut out."

The Bureau of Mines wrote the book on the mining industry, but in this age of rapidly developing technology and shrinking budgets, that wasn't enough to save it from the GOP budget ax.

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