Mining Safety: A U.S. Borax Legacy

:: Monday, December 19, 2022

Since the borate mining boom began in the late 1800s, U.S. Borax has been a global leader in borate development and research. But, we are equally proud of the leading role we’ve played in shaping the most fundamental and important aspect of this industry: Workplace safety.

As we wrap up our 150th anniversary year, safety today looks completely different than it did when our pioneering employees worked in early mines.

No doubt technology and equipment upgrades are central to better safety. But over the years we have also developed a rich culture of safety across U.S. Borax operations.

Notable achievements in borate mining safety

In the early days of borate mining in the United States, borate deposits were found in extremely remote locations. Transporting material meant crossing the length of the Mojave Desert—an intimidating 165-mile trek that required a team of 20 mules pulling a specially engineered, heavy-duty wagon.

Facing extreme heat and carrying heavy 20-ton loads, the caravan ground through tough terrain. Despite these brutal conditions, U.S. Borax never lost a man or mule to one of these difficult journeys.

Back then, borate mining lacked the resources, advanced equipment, and even safety standards that exist today. Still, those early miners were crafty, and their resourcefulness laid the foundation upon which the industry could grow and improve.

An old borate prospector from the late 1800s

Operations improvements
One of the largest improvements to mining safety came in 1957 when our underground mine was converted to an open pit mine. This eliminated many of the risks underground mines posed to miner safety.

Open pit mine dedication ceremony in 1957

Today, U.S. Borax uses an extensive high-wall monitoring system—which alerts our dedicated health, safety, and environment (HSE) team to even the slightest millimeter of earth movement in our mine. While an event such as a wall collapse is extremely unlikely, the monitoring system ensures our people have ample time to evacuate the affected area safely. A closure then remains in place until rigorous testing and mediation is complete.

Borate mining today: Safety remains paramount

Safety starts and ends with our exceptional people. A culture of safety is impossible if people are not equipped with the proper training, regular compliance checks, and management that supports and empowers them to report any issues.

Physical and mental health
Our commitment to the health, safety, and wellbeing of employees permeates all facets of our organization. We take the mental health of our employees seriously and continue to support several mental health initiatives and resources.

Bullying and harassment are not tolerated, and employees are encouraged to speak up if they witness any instances of unacceptable behavior. Treating people with respect is core to our values.

Diversity and inclusion
A healthy workplace is also a diverse and inclusive one. Our inclusion and diversity council works on-site to ensure diverse opinions and life experiences are welcome in the workplace.

Results and recognition
Our safety practices yield measurable results. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Borax boasts a lower recorded injury and illness case rate than many other industries—even in non-industrial settings.

Total recordable injury rate for industries compared to U.S. Borax statistics

Comparative workforce metrics are sourced from the U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2020 is the most recent full year available). Display is rate of injury and illness cases per 100 full-time workers. Metrics are focused solely on our existing operations.

We’re pleased our efforts to improve operations and safety have led to industry recognition. In 2019, we received an especially prestigious recognition, the Sentinels of Safety Award from the National Mining Association, for outstanding safety performance.

Read more about workplace safety at U.S. Borax

We’re proud of the culture of safety that spans U.S. Borax operations. Workplace safety is paramount to our purpose as a company—and we are fully committed to ensuring our employees lead healthy, safe lives.



U.S. Borax, part of Rio Tinto, is a global leader in the supply and science of borates—naturally-occurring minerals containing boron and other elements. We are 1,000 people serving 650 customers with more than 1,800 delivery locations globally. We supply around 30% of the world’s need for refined borates from our world-class mine in Boron, California, about 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles.  Learn more about Rio Tinto.

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