(a) The Legislature finds that new methods of extracting coal known as long wall or short wall mining are being used in this state. The board of coal mine health and safety shall investigate or cause to be investigated the technology, procedures and techniques used in such mining methods and shall promulgate by the first day of January, one thousand nine hundred eighty-one, and continuously update the same, rules governing long wall and short wall mining, which rules shall have as their paramount objective, the health and safety of the persons involved in such operations, and which said rules shall include, but not be limited to, the certification of personnel involved in such operation.
(b) The director may modify the application of any provision of this section to a mine if the director determines that an alternative method of achieving the result of such provision exists which will at all times guarantee no less than the same measure of protection afforded the miners of such mine by such provision, or that the application of such provision to such mine will result in a diminution of the health of, or safety to, the miners in such mine. The director shall give notice to the operator and the representative of miners in the affected mine, as appropriate, and shall cause such investigation to be made as he or she deems appropriate. Such investigation shall provide an opportunity for a hearing, at the request of such operator or representative or other interested party, to enable the operator and the representative of miners in such mine or other interested party to present information relating to the modification of such provision. The director shall issue a decision incorporating his or her findings of fact therein, and send a copy thereof to the operator and the representative of the miners, as appropriate. Any such hearing shall be of record.