NIOSH Tools To Help Improve Mine Safety

Following the multiple tragedies unfolding at the Crandall Canyon coal mine in Utah, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is reminding mine operators and mine workers that the agency offers extensive resources on the NIOSH Web site to help prevent events such as cave-ins and roof collapses from occurring.

Resources listed on the NIOSH Web Page can help mine operators and miners to anticipate risks of roof falls in mines, to anticipate potential hazards in retreat mining operations, and to design safe mining operations that reduce such risks, the agency said.

According to MSHA, the six miners who have been trapped in the mine since Aug. 6 were thought to have been engaged in a method called “retreat mining,” in which pillars of coal are used to support an area of the mine's roof. When that area is completely mined, the company pulls the pillar and grabs the useful coal, causing an intentional collapse.

NIOSH also provides resources to help keep emergency responders safe if an incident occurs and rescue or recovery efforts are undertaken. At the Crandall Canyon mine, a second cave-in claimed the lives of three mine rescuers and injured six others as they were tunneling through the mine to reach the six trapped men. (For more information about the rescue effort, read "Tragedies Mount At Utah Mine 3 Rescuers Die.".

NIOSH Reports Detail Advances Mine Safety and Health

Collaborating with diverse partners, NIOSH mining safety laboratories in Pittsburgh and Spokane, Wash., lead the national research in the United States in mine safety and health, which has resulted in fundamental advancements in understanding complex factors that can put mine workers at risk, designing effective protective measures and developing and applying innovative safety technologies. Resources include:

A NIOSH report discussing technologies for safe retreat mining. In retreat mining, pillars of stone and coal that support a mine roof are removed for the coal after operations end in the mine area. Removing the pillars poses a risk for roof instability.

ARMPS (Analysis of Retreat Mining Pillar Stability), software for designing pillars for room-and-pillar retreat mining.

Design methods and technologies for reducing the risk of ground falls during pillar recovery

A pioneering NIOSH analysis describing considerations for safe pillar removal in retreat mining.

Characteristics of coal mine "bumps" - sudden failures or movements of rock strata above and around coal mines that generate explosive forces - are described in a NIOSH research paper based on five case studies.

A NIOSH-developed, PC-based system to monitor stresses that can make rock unstable.

A NIOSH case study analyzing the characteristics of a large-scale rock burst and recommends control measures for preventing such incidents.

A NIOSH study that examines the characteristics of faint earth tremors associated with mining, which can help scientists assess instabilities that can lead to large-scale rock falls.

Resources to help mine operators plan for emergency response, including support in conducting rescue training simulations, and improving technologies used in mine rescue.

Further information about NIOSH's research and recommendations for preventing job-related injury, illness, and death in mining is available at

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