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MSHA News Release: [02/29/2012]
Contact:   Amy Louviere
Phone:   (202) 693-9423
Release Number 12-382-NAT

MSHA announces results of January impact inspections

ARLINGTON, Va. — The U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration today announced that federal inspectors issued 253 citations, orders and safeguards during special impact inspections conducted at 12 coal mines and four metal/nonmetal mines last month. The coal mines were issued 171 citations, 15 orders and two safeguards, while the metal/nonmetal operations were issued 64 citations and one order.

These inspections, which began in force in April 2010 following the explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine, involve mines that merit increased agency attention and enforcement due to their poor compliance history or particular compliance concerns, including high numbers of violations or closure orders; frequent hazard complaints or hotline calls; plan compliance issues; inadequate workplace examinations; a high number of accidents, injuries or illnesses; fatalities; and adverse conditions such as increased methane liberation, faulty roof conditions and inadequate ventilation.

As an example from last month, on Jan. 13, an impact inspection was conducted during the second shift at Perry County Coal Corp.'s E4-1 Mine in Perry County, Ky. The inspection team, which captured and monitored the phones to prevent advance notice of its arrival, issued 35 citations and three orders. The mine's last impact inspection, conducted in May 2011, had resulted in 27 citations and one order.

Following January's inspection, the mine was issued unwarrantable failure orders for noncompliance with the ventilation plan by failing to maintain a sufficient air volume at the end of the wing curtain when more than 18 inches of rock is being mined. (A wing curtain is a piece of flame-resistant brattice cloth used to direct air current to temporarily ventilate faces, seals or other areas of the mine.) This violation exposed miners to the risk of silicosis, black lung and a potential explosion. The mine operator also failed to control draw rock that extended from 32 crosscuts outby to the working face (approximately 2,080 feet), which exposed miners to the risk of being struck, injured or killed by pieces of falling roof. The mine operator further failed to maintain a scoop in permissible condition so that it was not a potential ignition source for explosive gasses as well as to conduct an adequate weekly examination of the same scoop.

Inspectors also found that the primary and secondary escapeways, along with required lifelines, were improperly maintained, which could severely hamper miners' efforts to evacuate the mine in the event of an emergency.

As a second example from last month, on the same day, MSHA conducted an impact inspection during the second shift at K and D Mining Inc.'s Mine No. 17 in Harlan County, Ky. The inspection team, which captured and monitored the mine phones, issued 21 citations and seven orders. The last impact inspection conducted at this mine had occurred in August 2010, resulting in 14 citations and six orders.

During January's visit, inspectors observed eight conditions that were the result of unwarrantable failures by the mine operator. Six involved failure to maintain the conveyer belts in safe operating condition and accumulation of combustible materials along the belt lines. Two belt lines were found to have missing or stuck rollers, causing friction and creating the potential for an ignition. Accumulations of combustible material were found along three belt lines, which are required to be examined at each shift.

Two 104(d) withdrawal orders were issued for the mine operator's failure to conduct an adequate exam of the section power center, which was found to be improperly maintained. Inspectors found evidence of severe arcing between receptacles on the power center, as well as on the male plugs of electrical equipment.

The mine operator also failed to comply with the roof control plan, according to inspectors. They observed a hill seam (rock fissure) that was tied in with several stress cracks. The hill seam and stress cracks extended across the pillar line for a distance of approximately 115 feet. The mine operator had not installed additional support as required by the roof control plan.

"While the impact inspection program has resulted in improved compliance in mines across the country, the seriousness of the violations found at these two operations demonstrates why targeted enforcement continues to be necessary to protect the health and safety of miners," said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health.

Since April 2010, MSHA has conducted 403 impact inspections, which have resulted in a total of 7,162 citations, 718 orders and 26 safeguards.

Editor's note: A spreadsheet containing the results of impact inspections in January 2012 accompanies this news release.