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11/13/2004

Another Bush Adm. Official resigns

The Bush administration official in charge of safety in the nation's mines is leaving his job.

Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health Dave Lauriski said Friday he plans to leave the agency by the end of next week. He said he would work within the mining industry from his home in Colorado but declined to be more specific about his plans.

A replacement has not been named.

Lauriski, a former industry executive, had a contentious relationship with the United Mine Workers of America, which represents coal miners. UMWA spokesman Doug Gibson expressed "relief" Friday that Lauriski was stepping down.

Perhaps the biggest dispute between the union and the agency came over a government proposal to allow coal operators to equip miners with special respirators when operators were having difficulty controlling dust levels.

Union officials complained the rule, which was shelved, could have allowed for more dust in mines. Prolonged exposure to excessive concentrations of coal mine dust can cause black lung disease - a debilitating illness that is sometimes fatal.

Lauriski said his proudest moment at the agency came two years ago when nine Pennsylvania miners were pulled to safety after being trapped underground for three days following an accident.

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