Mine Safety and Health Administration
Contact: Amy Louviere
Phone: (202) 693-9400
Released Tuesday, January 21, 2003
MSHA Publishes Internal Review on Kentucky Slurry Spill
Agency Acts to Eliminate Weaknesses
PIKEVILLE, Ky. - The Mine Safety and Health Administration is correcting weaknesses in enforcement procedures following an internal review into the agency's actions prior to the October 2000 slurry spill at Martin County Coal Corporation's Big Branch impoundment, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health Dave D. Lauriski announced today.
"The purpose of the internal review was to conduct a critical self-examination to determine how MSHA management practices could be improved," Lauriski said. "By strengthening MSHA's internal management process, we can make more effective use of all the tools provided in the law - enforcement, education and training, and technical assistance - all aimed at increasing safety for miners."
Lauriski said that as a result of the review MSHA:
- is adopting new guidelines to make sure significant new impoundment plans get prompt and thorough review by Technical Support specialists, while eliminating backlogs of plans awaiting approval;
- is working to clarify and streamline safety directives on impoundments;
- will issue a new impoundment inspection handbook; and
- is reviewing technology to help verify the exact extent of underground workings shown on mine maps.
On October 11, 2000, an inrush of water and slurry poured from the impoundment into an underground mine, burst through mine portals and flowed into tributaries of the Big Sandy River. MSHA accident investigators last year determined that the accident occurred because Martin County Coal Company failed to follow its approved sealing plan for the impoundment. No one was injured in the incident.
Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health
Internal Review Report - Big Branch Slurry Impoundment Failure - January 21, 2003
Martin County Coal Corporation (PDF)