Rescuers have located the bodies of the nine missing miners who died in the explosion at the Jim Walters Resources Inc.''s No. 5 coal mine near Brookwood, Ala, on Sept. 23.
On Sept. 23, mine operators reported to MSHA that rocks fell from the roof of the mine and landed on a battery charger, causing sparks that ignited methane gas. A larger explosion followed and 13 miners were missing and presumed dead. Subsequent rescue efforts were hampered by elevated levels of methane gas. Eventually, the bodies of four miners were recovered.
This week, recovery teams started exploration of the Number 4 section of the mine. After exploring about 500 feet into the section, they found the remaining nine miners, all of whom were located in one general area. MSHA says the work to repair the ventilation controls and the erection of temporary seals must be done before the miners'' bodies can be removed from the mine.
New information has come to light that reveals that MSHA cited the mine for 31 safety violations on Sept. 14 and 18, just days before the explosion. Seven of those violations were "significant and substantial", according to MSHA.
All the violations near the area of the explosion were fixed before Sept. 23, according to a representative from the company.
"We know those were fixed," said Kyle Parks, a spokesperson for Walter Industries, parent company of Jim Walter Resources.
According to the company, none of the violations played a role in the Sept. 23 explosion, the deadliest coal mining disaster in the United States since 1984.
Three of the significant violations involved improper roof supports; two involved excess coal dust; and two more were for problems with conveyor belts that the inspector ordered shut down and fixed. Although all seven of the serious "significant and substantial" violations were likely to cause injury, MSHA spokesman said none of them warranted closing the mine.
Although MSHA records show the violations were not fixed, Brown admitted "that''s not a 100 percent certainty that they weren''t fixed."
The mine has logged 239 operator accidents since 1995, and has paid fines of over $600,000 for safety and health violations cited since 1995.
by Sandy Smith