U.S. SEC Adopts New Mine Safety Disclosure Rules

By Sarah N. Lynch | December 22, 2011

Mining companies will need to disclose to investors information about health and safety violations under new rules adopted on Wednesday by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The rules, which are required by last year’s Dodd-Frank Wall Street overhaul law, will take effect 30 days after they are published in the Federal Register. They will require companies to provide mine-by-mine disclosures on various violations of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977.

Companies also will need to disclose pending legal matters and the total number of penalties assessed in a reporting period, even if the company is trying to contest the assessment.

This marks the first of three sets of mine disclosure-related rules that the SEC has adopted so far since the passage of Dodd-Frank. The SEC has delayed adoption of the other two sets of rules on conflict minerals and disclosures for resource extraction companies after they were both met with wide opposition by companies and industry groups.

The conflict minerals proposal, arguably the most controversial of the three, would require companies to disclose whether they use tantalum, tin, gold or tungsten from the war-torn Democratic Republic of the Congo. [ID: nN1E79F03L]

The other rule that still needs final approval would require resource extraction issuers to disclose payments made to the United States or foreign governments.

Unlike the conflict minerals proposal, which has received a substantial number of public comments and prompted the SEC to host a roundtable on the subject, Wednesday’s final rule on mine safety only generated 30 comment letters, the agency said.

Most of the comments were in favor of the rules as a whole.

The rules are based on safety and health requirements that are applicable to mines today under federal law. Much of the information that the SEC will require companies to disclose is already reported to federal regulators that oversee mine safety, the SEC said.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration, for instance, maintains a database on its website where users can look up information on inspections, violations and accidents, among other things.

Under the SEC’s rule, pending legal actions, mining-related fatalities, flagrant violations of federal mining laws and other such details much be included in companies’ quarterly and annual reports.

In addition, companies will also be required to file an 8K form when they receive notice from the MSHA about an imminent danger order or any notices about a pattern or potential pattern of violations.

(Reporting By Sarah N. Lynch in Washington DC; Editing by Gary Hill)

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