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Coal Mine Safety and Health

All impoundments and dams at coal mines are inspected by MSHA for hazardous conditions. Although all dams are inspected for hazards, not every dam at a coal mine requires an approved design plan. Title 30 CFR §77.216 states that plans for the design, construction, and maintenance of structures which impound water, sediment, or slurry shall be required if such an existing or proposed impounding structure can:

  1. Impound water, sediment, or slurry to an elevation of five feet or more above the upstream toe of the structure and can have a storage volume of 20 acre-feet or more; or


  2. Impound water, sediment, or slurry to an elevation of 20 feet or more above the upstream toe of the structure; or


  3. As determined by the District Manager, present a hazard to coal miners.

Dams or impoundments at coal mines not meeting any of the above criteria (i.e., small and not presenting a hazard), are inspected by MSHA for other potential hazards, such as the need for berms if the crest is used as a travel way.

Metal and Nonmetal Mine Safety and Health

All impoundments and dams at metal and nonmetal mines are inspected by MSHA for hazardous conditions. Title 30 CFR §56.20010 and §57.20010 state the following:

If failure of a water or silt retaining dam will create a hazard, it shall be of substantial construction and inspected at regular intervals.

A “hazard” is not restricted to a fatality. Injuries and property damage resulting from a dam failure may constitute a hazard. In addition, flooding resulting from dam failure that could block mine escape could constitute a hazard.




Tailings Dam