"It stops it before it gets there," he said. "It takes the human factor out."
Charles Russell, another industry representative on the board, said there's no question that the additional safety provided by proximity devices "far exceeds" that of other technologies that Hamilton mentioned. But, Russell said, the variety of potential solutions available is part of what's holding up regulatory action.
"There are so many things out there, and they all look promising," Russell said. "I think that's what's slowing things down."
Between 1984 and 2010, 30 miners died and 220 were injured nationwide when they became crushed, pinned or struck by continuous mining machines underground. Mine safety experts say these deaths and injuries could be prevented if mine operators installed proximity detection devices.
On the federal level, two separate U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration rules to require proximity detection systems remain stalled, one at MSHA and the other at the White House.
Terry Hudson, another industry representative on the board, said he's heard that MSHA is planning to issue one of its two rules -- requiring proximity detection for continuous mining machines -- sometime this month.
"It would be a good idea to just wait and see what is in their rule," Hudson said. Hudson said that if the state learns MSHA isn't going to act soon, he would recommend that West Virginia move ahead on its own.
In its latest regulatory agenda, made public in July, MSHA said it planned to issue a final version of the proximity detection rule for continuous mining machines sometime in August 2013.
As of Tuesday, MSHA's final language had yet to have been filed with the White House Office of Management and Budget, where an economic review of the rule could take months and further delay the rule taking effect.
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.