MSHA Releases Inspection Results from Targeted Mines with Suspected Unsafe Conditions

MSHA announced Aug. 24 the outcome of recent impact inspections at four underground coal mining operations where unsafe practices and conditions were suspected. MSHA inspectors uncovered numerous safety violations, including failure to follow the mine’s approved ventilation plan, inadequate roof support and accumulation of combustible materials.

In each case, federal inspectors commandeered company phones to prevent surface personnel from notifying workers underground of MSHA’s presence on the property. These inspections occurred during shifts when MSHA enforcement personnel were least expected.

“It is appalling that our inspectors continue to find such egregious violations, especially with the explosion at Upper Big Branch still fresh in everyone’s minds,” said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. “MSHA will continue to target mines with enhanced inspections where conditions merit such actions, particularly at mines that display a disregard to miners’ safety and health.”

The four mines and their major violations include:

Wilcoal Mining Inc.’s Tri-State One Mine in Claiborne County, Tenn. – MSHA inspectors issued 27 citations and 11 orders on July 30. Violations included mining without a curtain to direct ventilation and mining into an area of unsupported roof. Orders also were issued for inadequate pre-shift and electrical examinations. Because of the extent of the violations and hazards coupled with the mine’s past history of poor compliance, MSHA issued a 107(a) order requiring the operator to submit an action plan as to how they would proceed to correct the hazards. The mine operator presented an action plan, made the necessary corrective actions, and has been allowed to resume normal operations.

K&D Mining Inc., Mine No. 17 in Harlan County, Ky. – An Aug. 13 inspection resulted in MSHA issuing 15 citations and five orders related to ventilation, roof control, accumulation of combustible materials, damaged belt rollers and pre-shift examinations. Additional unsafe conditions were discovered that could lead to roof falls. Ventilation controls, intended to prevent explosions and lung disease, were not properly installed and used. After correcting all the hazardous conditions, the mine resumed operations Aug. 16.

Maple Eagle No. 1 Mine in Fayette County, W.Va. – On Aug. 16, MSHA issued 21 citations and 10 orders against this mine. Since October 2009, the operator had been issued 336 citations, 21 orders and three safeguards that encompassed a wide range of MSHA standards; the mine also reported eight accidents, including four roof falls, two accidents requiring medical treatment and two lost-time accidents. During this inspection, inspectors found violations including: failure to rock dust, improperly supported mine roof, failure to maintain a lifeline in safe condition, failure to maintain the primary escapeway, failure to follow the approved ventilation plan and coal dust accumulation. MSHA ordered closure of sections of the mine because of the mine operator’s failure to conduct adequate examinations, which may indicate an ineffective mine health and safety program.

ICG Knott County LLC, Classic Mine in Knott County, Ky. – On Aug. 19 and 20, MSHA inspections resulted in the issuance of 43 citations and one order for violations relating to ventilation, roof control, combustible materials on electrical face equipment and along the conveyor belts, misaligned conveyor belts and examinations and maintenance of electrical equipment standards. Additional citations were issued for safety violations on non-permissible personnel carriers. A 104(d)(2) order was issued for the operator’s failure to fully comply with the approved ventilation plan. This order closed the entire mine, including two continuous miner production units operating side by side and sharing the same loading point. The operator was required to revise the mine’s ventilation plan. MSHA will review those plan revisions and their implementation before production can resume at the mine.

“The conditions found at these mines, discovered when MSHA worked to thwart any advance notice, underscores the importance of the program information bulletins on ventilation the agency recently circulated throughout the mining industry, as well as the need for the legislative reforms pending before Congress,” said Main.

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