|Formed||May 16, 1910|
|Dissolved||March 30, 1996|
|Jurisdiction||Federal Government of the United States|
|Headquarters||Washington, DC (former)|
|Motto||Safety and Efficiency|
|Parent department||Department of the Interior|
For most of the 20th century, the United States Bureau of Mines (USBM) was the primary United States government agency conducting scientific research and disseminating information on the extraction, processing, use, and conservation of mineral resources. The Bureau was abolished in 1996.
USBM was established in the Department of the Interior on May 16, 1910, pursuant to the Organic Act (Public Law 179), to deal with a wave of catastrophic mine disasters. The Bureau's mission was gradually expanded to include:
The first director of the USBM was Joseph Austin Holmes, a pioneer in occupational safety and health. He served from 1910 until his death in 1915.
From its creation, the USBM was viewed, both nationally and internationally, as the focal point for new and emerging science and technology in the minerals field. Since entering competition in 1978, the Bureau of Mines won 35 R&D 100 Awards, given annually by R&D Magazine for the 100 most important research innovations of the year. This achievement is especially impressive considering the small size of the Bureau's research budget, compared to those of competing organizations, such as E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, Westinghouse Electric Corporation, General Electric Company, Hitachi, Ltd., the Department of Energy, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
USBM originally provided safety and health inspection for mines on a nationwide basis, replacing some, but not all state inspection operations. This division comprised the majority of personnel in USBM. In 1973 the Secretary of the Interior created a separate agency within the department, the Mining Enforcement and Safety Administration (MESA), and the safety and health enforcement responsibilities were transferred to the new agency. In 1977 Congress passed the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act, which expanded the federal authority for health and safety regulation, and created a new agency, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). MSHA is located in the Department of Labor, and replaced MESA.
Congress created the Office of Surface Mining with the passage of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977, and this agency inherited USBM's surface mining activities. The Department of Energy (DOE), also established in 1977, took over the USBM Coal Productivity Research division. However, the work was left unfunded by the newly created DOE as other priorities too the budget. These reorganizations led to a reduction in USBM staff, from approximately 6,000 in 1968 to 2,600 in the late 1970s. At its peak, USBM had 14 centers throughout the nation, but that was eventually reduced to four "mining research centers" in Denver, Pittsburgh, Minneapolis, and Spokane.
In September 1995, Congress voted to close the Bureau of Mines and to transfer certain functions to other federal agencies. With USBM's closure, almost $100 million, or 66%, of its 1995 programs ceased, and approximately 1,000 of its employees were dismissed. Certain specific health, safety, and materials programs were transferred to the Department of Energy, and certain minerals information activities moved to the U.S. Geological Survey and the Bureau of Land Management. The Bureau's archive of mining maps was transferred to the National Mine Map Repository (NMMR), a part of the Office of Surface Mining (OSM). Closure of the Bureau of Mines, and the accompanying transfers of functions and employee layoffs were essentially complete in March 1996.
The Bureau's Minerals Information functions were transferred to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in early 1996. The "Mineral Industry Surveys," "Mineral Commodity Summaries," and the "Minerals Yearbook" continued to be published. The Bureau's technical reports are archived by Technical Report Archive & Image Library
The Health and Safety Research Program at the Pittsburgh and Spokane Research Centers was assigned on an interim basis to DOE (Public Law 104-99). In fiscal year 1997, it was permanently transferred to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) (Public Law 104-134). NIOSH is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention within the Department of Health and Human Services. A total of 413 full-time equivalent employees were transferred to NIOSH on October 11, 1996—336 in Pittsburgh and 77 in Spokane. A position of Associate Director for Mining in the NIOSH headquarters office was created. Under NIOSH, the Pittsburgh and Spokane Research "Centers" were renamed the Pittsburgh Research Laboratory and Spokane Research Laboratory. Both labs currently reside under NIOSH's Office of Mine Safety and Health Research.
Since its founding, the numerous accomplishments of the Bureau of Mines have included the identification and development of many new processes, including:
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