The US Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has announced that the Brookwood-Sago safety grant programme, which offers funding for initiatives that identify and fix unsafe working conditions in US mines, will now give up to $250,000 to successful applications.

The programme was first established by the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act of 2006, in response to and to honour the deaths of 25 miners at a Jim Walter Resources mine in Brookwood, Alabama in 2001, and a Sago mine in West Virginia five years later. Grants start from $50,000 and are awarded for projects which focus on powered haulage safety, examinations of working environments at metal and non-metal mines, and emergency preparation and preparedness.

The MSHA said in a statement: “Funding will enable grant recipients to develop training materials, provide mine safety training or educational programmes, recruit mine operators and miners for the training, and conduct and evaluate the training.

“MSHA will give special emphasis to programmes and materials that target workers at smaller mines, including training miners and employers about new MSHA standards, high-risk activities, or hazards identified by MSHA.”

The announcement follows the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME) recognising several mining companies in the state for their safety records and reclamation efforts over the last year. The DMME found that in 2017, full-time and temporary staff worked around 7.5 million hours, of which 770,000 was worked at the state’s top eight mines for safety, which recorded zero accidents and the highest number of production hours in each category. Over 470,000 of these hours were worked at the Nestle Purina open-pit operation in King William County.

Eight people have died in US mining operations this year – most recently in June where a Cater Roag coal miner was struck by a steel object – and initiatives such as the Brookwood-Sago grant and DMME awards will incentivise improvements for miner safety.

Companies can apply for the MSHA grant until 23 August, and grants will be awarded on or before 28 September.