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MSHA Federal Register Document
Rules and Regulations

Volume 61, Number 18, Page 2543


Section 75.370 Mine Ventilation Plan; Submission and Approval

    Mine ventilation plans are a long recognized means for addressing 
safety and health issues that are mine specific. Individually tailored 
plans, with a nucleus of commonly accepted practices, are an effective 
method of regulating such complex matters as mine ventilation and roof 
control. Section 75.370 requires that each mine operator develop and 
follow a ventilation plan that is approved by MSHA and that is designed 
to control methane and respirable dust in the mine. Section 75.370 
further requires that the plan be suitable to the conditions and mining 
system at the mine. In addition, Sec. 75.370 provides the procedures 
for submittal, review and approval of the plan to assure that the plan 
for each mine will address the conditions in that mine.
    In this final rule, MSHA revises the existing plan submission and 
approval process to provide an increased role for the representative of 
miners in the mine ventilation plan approval process. This revision is 
consistent with the statutory purpose that miners play a role in safety 
and health.
    The final rule redesignates existing paragraphs (b)(1) through (f) 
as (c)(1) through (g), revises paragraphs (a)(3), (c)(1), and (f), and 
adds a new paragraph (b). The proposal would have modified the existing 
rule by providing that the representative of miners would receive a 
copy of the proposed mine ventilation plan or proposed revisions at the 
time of submittal to MSHA, and the approved plan upon approval by MSHA. 
The existing rule provided that the submitted plan and the approved 
plan were to be made available to the miners representative. Another 
proposed change was to specify the length of time the submitted plan 
and the approved plan would be posted at the mine. A new paragraph (b) 
would allow for timely comments on the submitted plan from the miners 
representative. Representatives of miners would receive written notice 
of plan approval. The final rule, for the most part, adopts the 
proposed rule. However, the final rule requires that the miners 
representative be notified of the submittal of a mine ventilation plan 
and revisions to a plan 5 working days prior to submittal and that the 
representative of miners be provided with a copy of the plan upon 
request. It also requires that MSHA provide a copy of miners'' 
representative comments to the mine operator upon request.
    Final rule paragraph (a)(3) is divided into (a)(3)(i), (a)(3)(ii), 
and (a)(3)(iii) and contains new requirements in (a)(1)(i) and 
(a)(1)(iii). Paragraph (a)(3)(i) requires that the mine operator notify 
the representative of miners that a mine ventilation plan or a plan 
revision is to be submitted to the District Manager for approval. This 
notification must be given at least 5 days prior to submission. 
Paragraph (a)(3)(i) further requires that the operator provide a copy 
of the plan or revision to the representative of miners at the time of 
notification, if requested. Paragraph (a)(3)(ii) requires that the 
proposed plan be made available for review by the representative of 
miners, and paragraph (a)(3)(iii) requires that the proposed plan or 
revision be posted on the 

[[Page 9807]]
bulletin board at the mine and remain posted until it is approved, 
withdrawn, or denied.
    Commenters representing both operators and labor suggested that the 
proposed plan or revision should be provided to the representative of 
miners prior to being submitted to the district manager for approval. 
One commenter suggested that the proposed plan or revision be provided 
to the representative of miners 10 days prior to submittal and stated 
that this could speed up the approval process by allowing the miners 
affected to investigate the proposed change and by permitting the 
operator and the representative of miners the opportunity to reconcile 
differences prior to the operator's seeking approval. The commenter 
pointed out that some existing wage agreements have adopted such a 
requirement. The commenter suggested that the rule should also include 
such a requirement because operators do not always comply with the 
requirements of the agreement. This commenter further suggested that 
there have been instances where plans have been revised and acted upon 
before the representative of miners was aware that a revision was to be 
made. Other commenters suggested that the proposed plan or revision be 
provided 3 days prior to submittal. These commenters expressed 
different reasons for the suggestion. One of these commenters stated 
that the industry has historically maintained that since the plan is 
submitted to the district manager for approval, and developed by the 
mine operator, the requirement to provide copies to other parties is 
contrary to the Mine Act. However, the commenters further stated that 
their suggestion reflected an attempt to balance all interests and 
resolve this matter.
    These comments are constructive and MSHA has used all of them to 
fashion a final rule which is consistent with the statutory purpose and 
responsive to the mining community. One commenter attempted to relate 
the rule to terms of a wage and hour agreement. MSHA does not intend or 
have authority to affect any wage and hour agreement. MSHA believes 
that the involvement of the miners and their representative in the plan 
approval process will improve the health and safety of the Nation's 
coal miners. As suggested by commenters, miners who work under the mine 
ventilation plan are often in the best position to know the effect of 
proposed revisions. MSHA has long recognized the importance of input 
from the miners and their representatives in the plan-approval process. 
The preamble to the existing standard discusses the role of miners and 
their representatives in the development of mine ventilation plans in 
detail. MSHA continues to believe that miners have a stake in the 
implementation of the ventilation plan at each mine.
    The final rule is consistent with the existing plan approval 
process and does not change the process for developing and approving a 
mine ventilation plan. The operator continues to be the party 
responsible for developing the mine ventilation plan and MSHA continues 
to be responsible for reviewing and approving the plan. The proposed 
rule, in paragraph (a)(3)(i), would have required the operator to 
provide a copy of a proposed mine ventilation plan or any proposed 
revision to the representative of miners at the time of submittal to 
MSHA. The final rule requires the operator to notify the representative 
of miners of the submittal of the proposed plan or revision at least 5 
working days prior to submittal to the district manager. In addition, a 
copy is to be provided to the representative of miners upon request. In 
most instances, this should provide sufficient time for a review of the 
proposed plan or revision and a discussion between the operator and the 
representative of miners over concerns that may exist.
    In response to comments, paragraph (a)(3)(i) is further revised in 
the final rule to reflect that there are occasions when mine 
ventilation plans must be submitted and reviewed within a very short 
time frame. In response to a question during one of the public hearings 
on the proposed rule, one commenter stated that miners understand that 
at times situations may arise that necessitate an operator submitting a 
plan or revision to MSHA that will not allow for the ten (10) day 
provision for the representative of the miners.
    Paragraph (a)(3)(i) of the final rule requires that in the case of 
a situation requiring immediate action on a plan revision, notification 
of the revision shall be given, and if requested, a copy of the 
revision shall be provided to the representative of miners by the 
operator, at the time of submittal to the district manager. The final 
rule does not include the recommendation of one commenter that the plan 
or revision be provided to the representative of miners before 
submittal because to so require could delay approval of a change 
necessary to health and safety. Questions will undoubtedly arise 
relative to what constitutes a situation requiring expedited action. 
MSHA does not believe that it is possible or appropriate to set forth 
all circumstances which would be covered by the standard. Should such a 
situation arise, it would be handled by the district manager on a case 
by case basis. Generally, the district manager would be guided by 
whether the condition, if uncorrected, could result in a health or 
safety hazard or an imminent stoppage of production in the mine or an 
area of the mine.
    Paragraph (a)(3)(ii) of the final rule retains the requirement that 
a copy of the proposed plan or any proposed revisions be made available 
for inspection by the representative of the miners. Although some 
commenters thought this was superfluous in light of the requirement in 
paragraph (a)(3)(i), MSHA believes that this requirement facilitates 
the overall approval process.
    Paragraph (a)(3)(iii) of the final rule retains the existing 
requirement that copies of the proposed plan and proposed revisions be 
posted on the mine bulletin board and clarifies that posting is 
required at the time of submittal. MSHA believes that the posting 
requirement is necessary to assure that all miners at a mine will have 
the opportunity to review the proposed plan or revision and provide 
input during the review process. One commenter suggested that proposed 
plans or proposed revisions be required to remain posted for only 30 
days from the time of submittal so as not to ``clutter up the bulletin 
board.'' This suggestion has not been included in the final rule 
because the mine ventilation plan impacts miners'' safety and health 
and it is important for miners to know which plan provisions are in 
effect versus those which have not been approved. Another commenter 
suggested that proposed plans and revisions be posted 10 days prior to 
submittal to MSHA. This recommendation has not been included in the 
final rule to assure that there is no confusion between plans that are 
approved and proposed provisions awaiting MSHA approval. To require 
posting of proposed plan revisions prior to submission to MSHA would 
create another category of mine ventilation plans which could result in 
unnecessary confusion. This is particularly true since the 
representative of miners will have the plan at least 5 days prior to 
submittal. Because there are occasions where a representative of miners 
does not feel it is necessary to review a plan or revision, the rule 
only requires the operator to provide a copy of the plan or revision 
upon request.
    Paragraph (b) of the final rule specifies procedures that the 
representative of miners may use to provide input in the mine 
ventilation plan review process. Under the final rule, the 
representative of miners may 

[[Page 9808]]
submit comments on the proposed plan or revisions to the plan to the 
district manager for consideration. Recognizing that in some instances 
a decision relative to the approval or denial of a revision must be 
made in a short time frame, the final rule requires that comments be 
made in a ``timely manner.'' MSHA has not defined ``timely manner'' but 
would consider it to be a period of time that does not unnecessarily 
delay the approval process. The district manager will continue to be 
available to discuss with the representative of miners all aspects of 
the plan as they affect miners' health and safety at any time during or 
following approval or denial of a proposed plan or revision. Commenters 
suggested that the representative of miners be given a deadline for the 
submission of comments similar to the time frame established in 
paragraph (a)(3)(i) for the operator to provide copies of proposed 
plans and revisions to the representative of mines. In support of this 
recommendation, these commenters stated that unlimited time could 
unnecessarily delay the approval process. This recommendation is not 
included in the final rule due to the complexity of some plans and 
revisions. MSHA's goals are for a process that includes both timely 
review and approval and opportunity for input from miners and the 
Agency believes both goals can be accomplished under the final rule. 
MSHA does not believe that this provision will unnecessarily delay the 
plan approval process since the final rule, like the proposal, requires 
comments to be submitted in a timely manner.
    One commenter suggested that comments submitted by the 
representative of miners to the district manager as part of the plan 
approval process should be provided to the operator. MSHA would expect 
that during the five day period before the plan is submitted to the 
district manager the operator and the representative of miners will 
discuss the plan and inform the other of their respective positions. 
MSHA would encourage the representative of miners to provide a copy of 
their comments to the operator prior to submitting them to MSHA. 
However, to assure that all parties to the plan approval process are 
aware of each others position paragraph (b) of the rule provides that 
the district manager will provide the operator with these comments upon 
request.
    Paragraph (c)(1) of the final rule is unchanged from the proposal 
and retains the existing requirement that the district manager notify 
the operator in writing of the approval or denial of a proposed plan or 
proposed revision. Paragraph (c)(1) adds a requirement that a copy of 
this notification be sent by the district manager to the representative 
of miners. This provision is intended to assure that the representative 
of miners is kept informed of the status of the plan approval. One 
commenter pointed out that quite often, plan provisions are modified 
during the review process and the final approved plan may be different 
from that which was originally submitted. This commenter suggested that 
when a change is made to a submission, the representative of miners 
should be notified of the intended change and afforded the opportunity 
to comment. MSHA agrees that changes to proposed plans do occur during 
the review process. Consistent with MSHA's philosophy that all parties 
to the plan approval process need to be aware of the status of a 
proposed plan or revision, MSHA would expect that the operator would 
inform the representative of miners of changes to the original 
submittal. However, to require that notification be provided for each 
and every change, no matter how minor, could effectively stop the plan 
review and approval process. Therefore, the final rule does not adopt 
the suggestion of the commenter. Some commenters interpreted paragraph 
(c)(1) as requiring the district manager to provide a copy of the 
approved plan to the representative of miners. Paragraph (c)(1) only 
requires that the district manager provide to the representative of 
miners a copy of the notification of approval or denial that is sent to 
the operator.
    Proposed paragraphs (f)(1), (f)(2) and (f)(3) are adopted in the 
final rule. Paragraph (f)(1) is new and requires the operator to 
provide the representative of miners with a copy of the plan or 
revision following notification of approval, if requested. This 
facilitates review of the plan or revision by the representative of 
miners. Also, the final rule continues in paragraphs (f)(2) and (f)(3) 
the existing requirements that the approved plan or revision be made 
available for inspection by the representative of miners and be posted 
on the mine bulletin board. Like the proposal, a new requirement in 
paragraph (f)(3) also requires that an approved plan or revision must 
be posted within 1 working day of notification of the approval and must 
remain posted for the period that the plan is in effect. This helps to 
assure that the miners themselves, as well as the representative of 
miners, are aware of the provisions of the mine ventilation plan once 
it is approved.
    Commenters both supported and opposed paragraph (f). Those in 
opposition suggested that some of the requirements were unnecessary in 
light of other requirements in the standard. Those supporting the rule 
suggested that the operator should be required to provide a copy of the 
approved plan or revision to the representative of miners and to make 
it available within 24 hours of notification of approval. Other 
commenters stated that mine ventilation plan approvals are sometimes 
sent to the company offices and not necessarily to the mine. They 
stated that in these cases, there could be a delay in copies of the 
approved plan or revision reaching the mine. MSHA crafted the final 
rule in light of the existing paragraph (d) which requires that 
operators instruct persons affected by the mine ventilation plan or its 
revision prior to implementation. Changes to the plan do occur during 
the approval process; MSHA would expect that the plan or revision would 
be available to the person conducting the required training and, 
therefore, would be provided to the representative of miners.
    One commenter suggested that, because the approved plan is required 
to be made available for inspection by the representative of miners, 
there is no need for the plan or revision to be posted on the bulletin 
board. This commenter identified some logistical problems associated 
with posting of plans stating that removal of the plan from the 
bulletin board could be a problem.
    This same commenter proposed that notification of the miners of a 
revision to the mine ventilation plan should be the responsibility of 
the representative of miners. MSHA does not agree that making the plan 
available for inspection by the representative of miners is an adequate 
substitute for posting of the plan or revision so as to make it 
available to all miners at all times. Nor does MSHA agree that the 
responsibility for assuring that miners are aware of the requirements 
of the plan is the proper function for the representative of miners. 
MSHA recognizes that difficulties can exist in assuring that the 
approved plan or revision is posted, however the safety benefits of 
having the plan available to the persons affected by its provisions far 
outweigh any logistical problems.

Section 75.371 Mine Ventilation Plan; Contents

    Section 75.371 sets forth the information that the operator must 
include in the mine ventilation plan. Because the plan deals with 
situations 

[[Page 9809]]
unique to a mine, the general rules applicable in other standards do 
not fit. For the convenience of the reader, the standard that sets out 
the general rule or provides for an option to include a provision in a 
plan will generally cross reference to the appropriate paragraph in 
Sec. 75.371.
    MSHA proposed revisions to existing paragraphs (b), (s), (z) and 
(bb) of Sec. 75.371 and reproposed existing paragraph (r). MSHA's final 
rule adopts the proposal for paragraphs (s), (z) and (bb). MSHA revises 
its proposed paragraph (r) to make conforming changes with other 
provisions. Finally, the final rule retains the existing language for 
paragraph (b).
    As stated in the General Discussion section of this preamble, 
provisions concerning the installation and removal of mechanized mining 
equipment that were promulgated in May of 1992 as part of the safety 
standards for underground coal mine ventilation were reproposed in May 
of 1994 as part of this rulemaking for the purpose of receiving and 
giving full consideration to all pertinent comments on this issue. 
Paragraph (r) of the final rule is one of the provisions that was 
reproposed. Section 75.325(d) of the final rule requires that areas 
where mechanized mining equipment, including longwall equipment, is 
being installed and removed be ventilated. Paragraph (r) of Sec. 75.371 
requires that the quantity of air that will be provided be included in 
the mine ventilation plan. Most commenters either supported the 
provision, citing the explosion at the William Station Mine, or stated 
that the standard was originally promulgated inappropriately and did 
not substantively comment on the requirement. One commenter suggested 
that the quantity of air specified in the plan under paragraph (r) 
should represent the minimum quantity that will be provided and the 
location specified should be identified as what would be typical so as 
to give the mine the flexibility to adapt to varying mine conditions. 
This recommendation is consistent with MSHA's intent and MSHA has 
included it in the final rule to help clarify the rule.
    One commenter suggested that the ventilation scheme shown in the 
plan should be representative of the method of ventilation to be used. 
MSHA agrees that the mine ventilation plan should include a method of 
ventilation that is representative of that used in the mine. However, 
MSHA has not adopted this suggestion since the plan must be specific 
enough so that the operator, the miners, the representative of miners, 
and MSHA are assured that all areas are being adequately ventilated.
    Paragraph (r) of the final rule requires that the mine ventilation 
plan include the location where air quantities will be provided, and 
the ventilation controls that will be used to provide these quantities. 
This language was included in the reproposed provision and in 
Sec. 75.325(d), which requires that the quantity of air that will be 
provided during the installation and removal of mechanized mining 
equipment, the location where this quantity will be provided, and the 
ventilation controls that will be used, be included in the mine 
ventilation plan. In reproposing paragraph (r), MSHA inadvertently 
excluded from Sec. 75.371(r) the requirement relative to the location 
where the air quantity is provided. The final rule has been modified in 
Sec. 75.371(r) to conform to the requirements of Sec. 75.325(d).
    The final rule revises existing paragraph (s) to conform to changes 
in Sec. 75.362(d)(1)(iii). The final rule deletes the portion of 
existing Sec. 75.362(d)(2) which requires that the mine ventilation 
plan include the location of tests which are to be made closer to the 
working face than the last permanent roof supports using extendable 
probes or other acceptable means. The final rule in paragraph 
(d)(1)(iii) requires that the mine ventilation plan specify the 
frequency and location of the methane tests if required more often than 
20 minutes by Sec. 75.362(d)(1)(iii). One commenter suggested adding 
the words, ``or at other locations and frequencies if approved by the 
district manager and contained in the ventilation plan.'' The suggested 
clarification is not necessary and has not been adopted in the final 
rule.
    The final rule revises paragraph (z) to conform to Sec. 75.364(a). 
Section 75.364(a) addresses the measurements to be made to evaluate the 
effectiveness of bleeder systems and the ventilation of worked-out 
areas during the weekly examination. The final rule requires that the 
locations where these measurements are made or alternative methods of 
providing these evaluations be included in the mine ventilation plan. 
One commenter suggested that the locations where air measurements are 
made should not be required in the mine ventilation plan. The commenter 
made a similar suggestion relative to the requirement in Sec. 75.364 
that air measurements be made to evaluate the ventilation of worked-out 
areas and determine the effectiveness of bleeder systems. According to 
the commenter, since no specific air volume is required it is not 
necessary to measure the volume present. The measurement of air 
quantity, as well as the other measurements required by the existing 
standard, are essential to evaluate the ventilation of worked-out areas 
and determine the effectiveness of bleeder systems. The final rule, 
therefore, does not include the suggested changes in either Sec. 75.364 
or Sec. 75.371(z).
    Another commenter suggested that since the current standards do not 
require a specific volume of air in bleeder entries, it is unnecessary 
to measure the air volume. Proper evaluation of the effectiveness of a 
bleeder system can only be achieved by comparison of measurements taken 
in the bleeder system. In most instances, one of the most important 
measurements is the air quantity at strategic points in the bleeder 
system. Therefore, the final rule includes the proposed requirement 
that the locations where air quantity measurements will be made in the 
bleeder system be specified in the mine ventilation plan.
    Existing paragraph (bb) requires that the location of ventilating 
devices used to control air movement through worked-out areas be 
included in the mine ventilation plan. The final rule reinstates a 
requirement contained in the previous regulation, that the location and 
sequence of construction of proposed seals also be indicated. This 
requirement is consistent with Sec. 75.334(e) which requires that the 
sequence of construction of seals be specified in the mine ventilation 
plan. Some commenters on paragraph (bb) and Sec. 75.334(e) suggested 
that proper sequencing of seals can change due to mining conditions and 
should not be made a part of the mine ventilation plan. Another 
commenter suggested that because the time to get a plan approved can be 
lengthy, it may even create unnecessary hazards. Proper sequencing of 
seal construction is necessary for effective ventilation during 
sealing. Therefore, the final rule requires the location and sequence 
of the construction of seals be specified and approved in the mine 
ventilation plan. If a delay in seal construction will result in a 
hazard to miners, the review and approval of the plan can be expedited 
as explained in the preamble discussion of Sec. 75.370.
    One commenter on paragraph (bb) suggested that the locations of 
stoppings, regulators, and bleeder connector entries are better shown 
on the mine map with a notation that it is subject to approval under 
Sec. 75.371. The existing standard permits appropriate information 
required under Sec. 75.371 to be shown on the map required by 
Sec. 75.372. This is explained in the preamble discussion for existing 
Sec. 75.371. MSHA recognizes that some of 

[[Page 9810]]
the information required to be submitted under Sec. 75.371 is best 
shown on a map. Rather than require additional maps, this information 
may be shown on the Sec. 75.372 map. When shown on the Sec. 75.372 map, 
only that portion of the map that contains information required under 
Sec. 75.371 is subject to approval by the district manager.
    The proposal would have revised paragraph (b) to reflect the 
proposed changes in paragraphs (c) and (d) of Sec. 75.312 allowing 
alternative testing methods for main mine fan automatic closing doors 
and fan signals. Because the final rule does not include the proposed 
changes to Sec. 75.312(c) and (d), final rule Sec. 75.371(b) conforms.

Section 75.372 Mine Ventilation Map

    The mine ventilation map provides a basis for understanding how a 
particular coal mine is ventilated. An accurate and up to date map of 
the mine enables the operator and MSHA to review the mine's ventilation 
plan to determine the appropriateness of the ventilation system to the 
conditions in the mine. Only through a thorough understanding of the 
ventilation system can the operator and others determine whether the 
system is capable of preventing methane accumulations, possible 
explosions, and high levels of respirable dust. Generally, Sec. 75.372 
requires that the necessary information be provided on the map.
    The final rule revises existing paragraph (b)(3) and adds new 
paragraphs (b)(19) and (b)(20). Paragraph (b)(3) addresses which 
adjacent workings must be shown on the mine map. The final rule, like 
the proposal, requires all known adjacent workings within 1,000 feet of 
existing or projected mine workings to be shown on the mine map, 
regardless of whether the workings are located on mine property or on 
adjacent property. The existing rule required that only the adjacent 
workings within 1,000 feet be shown if they are on mine property.
    MSHA has concluded that it is necessary to require that the mine 
ventilation map include all known workings located in the same coalbed 
within 1,000 feet of existing or projected workings, regardless of 
whether the workings are located on the mine property. Hazards, such as 
methane and water accumulations and irrespirable atmospheres, exist in 
old workings whether located on mine property or not. MSHA also notes 
that this revision makes paragraph (b)(3) consistent with existing 
paragraph (h) of Sec. 75.1200, Mine map. Paragraph (h) of Sec. 75.1200 
requires that the mine map show all adjacent mine workings within 1,000 
feet. Like the previous standard, this revision would assure that all 
adjacent mine workings appear on the Sec. 75.372 map in those cases 
where operators do not use a Sec. 75.1200 map for their required 
submission.
    One commenter suggested that this requirement not be included 
because mine operators have no legal obligation or authority to force 
an adjacent land owner to provide the required information. MSHA 
recognizes that the mine operator may, in some instances, have 
difficulty obtaining this information. The hazards that exist within 
abandoned mines, however, warrant such a requirement. Additionally, as 
noted previously, this requirement is consistent with the requirements 
of Sec. 75.1200(h) and will, therefore, impose no additional burden on 
the operator. Agency experience reveals that the existing standard, 
Sec. 75.1200(h), has not proven to be practically difficult for 
compliance. In addition, this information would be available to the 
miners and would enhance their understanding of the ventilation system 
and aid them in the event of an emergency.
    Another commenter suggested that the rule explicitly require that 
all mine workings, including workings from auger mining, highwall 
mining and strip mining, be shown on the map. This recommendation has 
not been included in the final rule because MSHA believes that the 
final rule is clear and requires any workings from other mines, such as 
strip, auger and similar workings, to be shown if they are in the same 
coalbed and are within 1,000 feet of existing or projected mine 
workings.
    Proposed paragraph (b)(19) is adopted in the final rule. The 
proposal was drafted in response to comments received at public 
meetings. It reinstates the requirement in the previous standard that 
the mine map include the entry height, velocity and direction of the 
air current at or near the midpoint of each belt flight where the 
height and width of the entry are representative of the belt haulage 
entry. Paragraph (b)(19) of the final rule should assist the examiner 
in rapidly determining whether the air is flowing in its normal 
velocity and direction during examination of the belt entry required 
elsewhere in subpart D. One commenter suggested that this requirement 
is redundant because the mine ventilation plan already requires that 
this be ``illustrated''. MSHA does not agree that the requirement is 
redundant since there is no such requirement in the mine ventilation 
plan.
    MSHA emphasizes that like much of the information required to be 
shown on the ventilation map, this information would not be subject to 
approval. When shown on the Sec. 75.372 map, only that portion of the 
map that contains information required under Sec. 75.371 is subject to 
approval by the district manager. The information required by paragraph 
(b)(19) does not fit this criteria and therefore is not subject to 
approval by the district manager.
    As explained in the discussion of Sec. 75.301, instances have 
developed where operators direct air from an intake air course to 
ventilate shops, electrical installations, or for other purposes, and 
this air is then coursed to the surface and is not used to ventilate 
working places. Under one interpretation of the existing definition, 
because this air has not ventilated a working place or a worked-out 
area, the air course cannot be considered a return air course. In these 
instances, the final rule in Sec. 75.301 expressly permits the 
redesignation of the affected portion of the air course as a return air 
course. Because it is important that personnel, including examiners, 
the miners' representative, and representatives of the Secretary, know 
which air courses have been redesignated, the final rule requires that 
these air courses be shown on the map. Paragraph (b)(20) requires that 
the location of redesignated air courses be shown on the ventilation 
map. Commenters were supportive of this provision.

Section 75.380 Escapeways; Bituminous and Lignite Mines

    When a fire, explosion or other emergency necessitates an immediate 
evacuation of a mine, the designated route for miners to leave the mine 
is the escapeway. The escapeway should be appropriately located and 
designed to be free of obstructions and hazards to assure safe passage 
from the hazardous underground environment. The final rule addresses 
requirements for escapeways. Paragraphs (b)(1) and (b)(2) set forth the 
requirements for the location of the escapeway when installing and 
removing mechanized mining equipment. Paragraphs (d)(3) through (d)(5) 
deal with the minimum dimensions of escapeways. Paragraph (f) addresses 
the equipment that can be used in escapeways and the requirements for 
fire suppression systems on this equipment. Finally, paragraph (i) sets 
the minimum slope of an escapeway.
    The final rule republishes existing paragraphs (b)(1) and (b)(2) 
and revises paragraph (d)(3) through (d)(5), (f) and (i)(2).
    Sections 75.380 (b)(1) and (b)(2) of the final rule deal with 
escapeways on 

[[Page 9811]]
working sections and areas where mechanized mining equipment is being 
installed or removed. MSHA adopts the proposal in the final rule. An 
in-depth discussion of the proposal of provisions concerning the 
installation and removal of mechanized mining equipment is presented in 
the General Discussion section of this preamble.
    MSHA specifically solicited comments on those portions of the 
proposal dealing with the installation and removal of mechanized mining 
equipment, including paragraphs (b)(1) and (b)(2) of Sec. 75.380. These 
paragraphs require that an escapeway be provided to areas where 
mechanized mining equipment is being installed or removed. Only one 
substantive comment was received. The commenter suggested that the 
location of the beginning of the escapeway during equipment 
installation and removal should be specified in the mine ventilation 
plan to minimize the potential for congestion during movement of heavy 
equipment. The commenter stated that the proposal would eliminate all 
access to a longwall during the installation or removal of the longwall 
equipment except for the face crosscut, and lead to accidents.
    MSHA believes that the location where the loading point will be 
installed and where the loading point was last located prior to removal 
are easily identifiable and offer the best choice. The suggestion of 
the commenter has not been adopted in the final rule. In addition, the 
commenter noted that mobile equipment was needed during the 
installation and removal of longwalls; this equipment can be used in 
the escapeway if properly attended and protected with proper fire 
suppression.
    As with the existing rule, paragraph (d)(3) of the final rule 
generally requires escapeways to be maintained to a height of 5 feet 
from the mine floor to the mine roof, excluding the thickness of any 
roof support. To accommodate mines in low seams, the rule provides that 
where the coalbed is less than 5 feet, the escapeways shall be 
maintained at least to the height of the coalbed. As in the past, 
convergence, the reduction in entry height due to roof sag or floor 
heave, which occurs as a natural geologic process, will be excluded 
when determining escapeway height unless it would impede the escape of 
miners, including disabled persons, in the event of an emergency. The 
final rule modifies (d)(3) to provide that in areas of mines where 
escapeways pass through doors or in areas of mines developed before 
November 16, 1992 where escapeways pass across or under overcasts or 
undercasts, the height of the escapeway may be less than 5 feet 
provided the height is sufficient to enable miners, including disabled 
persons, to escape quickly in an emergency. It was brought to the 
attention of MSHA by one commenter that in some instances the removal 
of roof support or the lowering of the tops of overcasts may be 
necessary to provide the 5-foot height required by the existing rule. 
It has been suggested that this could result in a diminution of safety.
    One commenter suggested that escapeways should be 6 feet in width 
and 5 feet in height without exception. This suggestion has not been 
adopted in the final rule. Under the previous rule, escapeway 
dimensions were addressed through criteria and operators routinely 
requested and received approval for lesser dimensions than that in 
criteria based on a performance test referred to as a ``stretcher 
test.'' As applied, this test required 4 persons to carry a fifth 
person on a stretcher through the area in question. The purpose of the 
``stretcher test'' was to demonstrate that the lesser dimension would 
not delay escape. The final rule permits lesser escapeway heights and 
widths under specific circumstances provided the height and width 
maintained enable miners to escape quickly in an emergency. The final 
rule requires that when there is a need to determine whether sufficient 
height or width is provided, MSHA may require a stretcher test where 4 
persons carry a miner through the area in question on a stretcher.
    This commenter suggested that the results of a stretcher test could 
be manipulated by having the most fit miners carry the smallest miner. 
MSHA continues to believe that the stretcher test is appropriate. 
MSHA's experience is that the stretcher test provides a good measure of 
the ability of miners to escape.
    Since the escape of miners is not impeded, the demonstration that 
there is no delay in escape assures that there is no reduction in 
safety.
    MSHA received similar comments regarding the dimensions of 
escapeways developed on or after November 16, 1992, (the effective date 
of the existing rule). Commenters suggested that where these escapeways 
pass across or under overcasts or undercasts, the height of the 
escapeway should be permitted to be less than 5 feet provided the 
height is sufficient to enable miners, including disabled persons, to 
escape quickly in an emergency situation. This suggestion is not 
adopted in the final rule since sufficient clearance should have been 
provided in these escapeways through proper planning and engineering. 
Also, MSHA's experience does not reveal any compliance problems 
associated with the standards since November 1992.
    One commenter recommended changing the phrase ``disabled persons'' 
in paragraph (d)(3) to ``injured persons.'' In support of this 
recommendation, the commenter stated that the phrase is intended to 
include persons who may be injured but not necessarily disabled. MSHA 
does not believe that the change is needed since there are many 
situations that occur underground that can result in a person being 
injured but not severely enough to need assistance (i.e. disabled) to 
be transported from the mine. An escapeway that will permit the 
transport of disabled persons, i.e. the more severely injured persons, 
can be expected to accommodate persons with lesser injuries. The term 
disabled with respect to the concept of injured has existed in the 
regulations for over 25 years and MSHA is not aware of any problems 
with its use.
    Questions arose during informational meetings regarding the 
requirements for the height of doors in escapeways. The final rule, 
like the proposal, permits door heights of less than 5 feet under 
certain conditions. Under the previous rule, escapeway dimensions, 
including door heights, were addressed through criteria and operators 
routinely requested and received approval for lesser dimensions than 
that in criteria based on a performance test referred to as a 
``stretcher test.'' Under the final rule, door heights of less than 5 
feet are permitted provided the operator can demonstrate that persons, 
including disabled persons, can escape without delay. The method of 
demonstration would be the stretcher test, the same as for the 
escapeway. Additionally, there are normally few doors in an escapeway 
and the distance traversed in a door is very short. Passing the 
stretcher test assures that there would be no diminution of safety 
under the new provision. Also, since significant pressure differentials 
can exist in escapeways, doors which are less than 5 feet are easier to 
open.
    Paragraph (d)(4) of the existing rule requires the escapeways be 
maintained at least 6 foot wide with some exceptions. Widths of less 
than 6 feet are permitted in either the primary or the alternate 
escapeway in instances where supplemental roof support is necessary and 
where the route of travel passes through doors or other permanent 
ventilation controls. In both cases, existing paragraph (d)(4) requires 
that the escapeway be at least 4 feet wide. Under the final rule, 
paragraph (d)(4)(iii) permits the alternate 

[[Page 9812]]
escapeway to be less than 4 feet wide under certain conditions.
    Paragraph (d)(4)(iii) applies to the alternate escapeway only and 
allows the escapeway width to be less than 4 feet for the same 
conditions addressed in paragraphs (i) and (ii) if it can be 
demonstrated that sufficient width is maintained to enable persons, 
including disabled persons, to escape quickly in an emergency. The 
conditions that could warrant lesser widths are the locations where the 
alternate escapeway passes through doors or other permanent ventilation 
controls, including constructed approaches to permanent ventilation 
controls and facilities addressed in paragraph (d)(6), or where 
supplemental roof support is required.
    One commenter stated that the alternate escapeway should be 
maintained at a minimum width of 4 feet without exception and noted 
that on several occasions miners have been forced to use the alternate 
escapeway in emergencies. The commenter noted that it could be 
difficult to transport an injured person on a stretcher at widths under 
4 feet. The final rule requires that when there is a need to determine 
whether adequate width is provided, the stretcher test would be 
applied.
    Under the previous rule, approval had been granted for reduced 
escapeway widths based on the stretcher test. These approvals were due 
to the need to provide additional roof support and, in some cases, the 
need for passage through ventilation controls. Additionally, as newer 
portions of a mine age and require additional roof support, the final 
rule allows widths of less than 4 feet in the alternate escapeway where 
this roof support exists, provided the stretcher test is passed. MSHA 
believes this approach achieves the intended result of the standard 
while at the same time addressing the safety issues of providing 
necessary supplemental roof support and permitting travel in the 
alternate escapeway.
    The preamble to the proposal stated that under the existing 
standard Sec. 75.380(d)(4) mobile equipment should not be considered 
when determining escapeway width unless the equipment has been 
permanently abandoned in the escapeway or would be obstructing the 
escapeway for a significant portion of a shift. Commenters objected 
that this interpretation would be unduly restrictive and impractical. 
Commenters noted that certain parked mobile equipment would enhance 
miner safety where the equipment could be used to transport people out 
of the mine in the event of an emergency.
    Experience under the existing and the previous rule indicates that 
track-mounted and rubber-tired equipment which could be used for 
evacuation should be excluded when determining escapeway widths. Track-
mounted supply cars enhance safety by providing a readily available 
supply of rock dust, roof support material, and other essential safety 
related material. Section 75.214 requires that a supply of 
supplementary roof support material and the tools and equipment 
necessary to install the materials be available at a readily accessible 
location on each working section or within 4 crosscuts of each working 
section. In contrast, the Agency received comments that escapeways 
should be maintained at least 6 feet in width except in rare cases 
where roof supports could reduce the width to no less than 4 feet over 
a limited distance.
    The final rule takes a practical approach, preserving the 
requirement that escapeways must be of sufficient width to enable 
miners, including disabled persons, to escape quickly in an emergency. 
The final rule also recognizes that certain necessary mining and 
transportation equipment is located on and near working sections. For 
example, necessary supply cars containing safety related material like 
rock dust, roof support, ventilation control construction material, 
etc., is allowable. Additionally, longwall section equipment commonly 
includes, but may not be limited to, starter box, water pump, section 
belt tailpiece and takeup assembly, section transformer, and emulsion 
pump. Because this equipment is necessary to the operation of the 
longwall, it also is permitted to be in the escapeway near the working 
section under the final rule. In continuous miner sections as well as 
longwall sections, mantrips and personnel transportation equipment, 
which could be utilized in an emergency evacuation, is allowable. The 
final rule would not prohibit this equipment in escapeway entries on or 
near working sections. The rule would require, however, that sufficient 
clearance be maintained to permit rapid escape.
    This aspect of the final rule maintains the historical approach 
taken to addressing issues of clearance in the confined environment of 
underground coal mines. The final rule, while permitting reduced 
dimensions near working sections as discussed above, requires that the 
escapeways always be maintained of sufficient width to enable miners, 
including disabled persons, to escape quickly in an emergency. As 
discussed elsewhere in this preamble, the Agency will assess the 
adequacy of escapeway widths in such areas by means of the stretcher 
test to assure that the width is sufficient to enable miners, including 
disabled persons, to escape quickly in an emergency.
    Like the proposal, the final rule in paragraph (d)(5) revises the 
existing language dealing with the location of escapeways. It provides 
that escapeways shall be located to follow the most direct, safe and 
practical route to the nearest mine opening suitable for the safe 
evacuation of miners. A question arose during an informational meeting 
as to whether MSHA intended that the existing rule eliminate the 
requirement that escapeways be routed to the ``nearest mine opening.'' 
It was not MSHA's intent to change this requirement from the previous 
standard. The existing requirement that the escapeway follow the most 
direct route to the surface would, in fact, require the route to go to 
the nearest mine opening. However, to eliminate any confusion that may 
exist, the final rule revises paragraph (d)(5) and adopts language 
similar to that in previous regulation, Sec. 75.1704-2(a), that is, 
that the escapeway must follow the most direct, safe and practical 
route to the nearest mine opening suitable for the safe evacuation of 
miners.
    One commenter stated that escapeways should not be permitted to 
pass an opening to be routed to a more distant opening. Another 
commenter stated that the nearest mine opening may not always be the 
safest due to roof conditions or other factors. MSHA acknowledges that 
the nearest mine opening may not always be the safest route to the 
surface. A number of factors affect whether or not the safest, most 
direct, practical route has been selected. These factors include roof 
conditions, travel height, fan location, physical dimensions of the 
mine opening, and similar considerations. For example, if bad roof 
conditions are present along the shortest direct route and those roof 
conditions are beyond reasonable control, then an alternate ``safe'' 
route designated by the mine operator may be appropriate. However, the 
presence of roof falls does not necessarily indicate that the 
passageway would not be suitable for evacuation if it is reasonable to 
rehabilitate the area. By way of another example, where coal seam 
thickness varies to the extreme, the shortest route may be through 
lower coal, making travel relatively slow and difficult. An alternate 
route through a high passageway may permit easier travel. Such an 
alternate route, although longer, may be more practical and therefore 
may be more appropriate. 

[[Page 9813]]
Similarly, there can be other instances where the ``nearest mine 
opening'' may not be suitable for safe evacuation of miners. For 
example, an old mine shaft may not be safe for travel because of badly 
deteriorated conditions, such as a deteriorated shaft lining or 
deteriorated timbers, even though the shaft is still suitable for mine 
ventilation purposes.
    As with the existing standard, mine development projections do not 
have to be altered to provide additional rooms, entries, or crosscuts 
for the sole purpose of providing a passageway to the nearest mine 
opening. However, the construction of ventilation controls such as 
stoppings, overcasts and undercasts, or the installation of an escape 
facility may be required to provide the most direct, safe and practical 
route to the surface.
    One commenter suggested that MSHA should require an escapeway plan 
to be approved by the MSHA district manager to assure the most direct 
route to the surface. Existing standards require that escapeways be 
shown on the ventilation map. In addition, as with other regulations, 
inspectors assess whether escapeways follow the most direct, safe and 
practical route to the surface during each regular inspection. 
Accordingly, MSHA does not believe that an additional plan is 
necessary.
    Existing paragraph (f) establishes the requirements for ventilation 
of the primary escapeway and identifies which equipment can be operated 
in the primary escapeway and the fire suppression requirements for this 
equipment. The final rule, like the proposal, modifies paragraph (f) to 
explicitly identify the equipment that is not permitted in the primary 
escapeway and to specify the types of fire suppression systems that are 
to be used and the conditions under which each is to be used on 
equipment permitted in the primary escapeway. This is done by replacing 
existing paragraphs (f)(1) and (f)(2) with paragraphs (f)(1) through 
(f)(7) in the final.
    Existing paragraph (f)(1) requires that one escapeway that is 
ventilated with intake air be designated as the primary escapeway and 
prohibits certain equipment from being used in the primary escapeway in 
areas developed after November 15, 1992. Further, paragraph (f)(1) 
requires fire suppression systems on mobile equipment that is operated 
in the primary escapeway. The final rule transfers the part of existing 
paragraph (f)(1) that specifies the area of the primary escapeway 
affected to paragraph (f)(2).
    The existing rule limited the installation or use of certain 
equipment in areas of the primary escapeway developed after November 
15, 1992. Paragraph (f)(2) of the final rule modifies the existing rule 
for clarity and expands the application of certain requirements 
contained in paragraphs (f)(3) through (f)(7) to the entire primary 
escapeway except those areas of the primary escapeway developed prior 
to March 30, 1970 where separation of the primary escapeway from the 
belt and trolley haulage entries did not exist as of November 16, 1992. 
For areas of mines developed after September 15, 1992, (those areas 
covered by the existing rule) the provisions of paragraphs (f)(3) 
through (f)(7) will be effective as of March 11, 1997. For other areas 
covered by the rule, MSHA has provided for a 1 year phase in period to 
allow mine operators time to effectively plan and implement the 
necessary changes. The phase in period applies to areas of a primary 
escapeway developed between March 30, 1970 and November 16, 1992, and 
to areas of the primary escapeway developed prior to March 30, 1970 
where separation of the belt and trolley haulage entries from the 
primary escapeway existed prior to November 16, 1992.
    Paragraph (f)(3) prohibits certain equipment from being in the 
primary escapeway. Paragraphs (f)(4) and (f)(5) deal with fire 
protection for mobile equipment that is permitted in the primary 
escapeway and paragraph (f)(6) addresses a specific circumstance when 
mobile equipment may operate in a primary escapeway without a fire 
suppression system. Paragraph (f)(7), a provision added to the proposed 
language in response to comments, allows the use of designated 
emergency vehicles or ambulances in the primary escapeway.
    One commenter suggested that the final rule should not provide an 
exception for all areas where separation of the primary escapeway from 
the belt and trolley haulage entry does not exist. The commenter 
recognized, however, that Congress granted an exemption from separation 
requirements for areas of the primary escapeway developed prior to 
March 30, 1970, the effective date of the Act. The intent of the 
proposal was to provide an exemption from the requirements of proposed 
paragraphs (f)(3) through (f)(6) for these same areas. The commenter 
points out that the proposal would have extended the exemption to other 
areas of the primary escapeway where, for one reason or another, 
separation did not exist on November 16, 1992, the effective date of 
the existing rule. The final rule modifies the proposal to clarify that 
the exemption only applies to those areas of the escapeway that were 
developed prior to March 30, 1970 and where separation did not exist on 
November 16, 1992.
    Another commenter correctly interpreted proposed paragraph (f)(2) 
as extending the requirement that limits the types of equipment 
permitted in primary escapeways to areas of the mine developed prior to 
November 16, 1992. The commenter stated that the proposed regulation 
would pose great cost to the industry with no appreciable safety 
benefit derived. A review of the fire history relative to both 
stationary and mobile equipment indicates that fires can and do occur 
on this equipment. Mobile equipment by design is intended to provide 
flexibility in movement and is capable of operating anywhere in the 
mine. Although the accident reports do not specify whether the mobile 
equipment that caught fire was in the primary escapeway when the fire 
started, it is reasonable to conclude that at least some of these fires 
did occur in the primary escapeway. MSHA continues to believe that 
given the importance of the primary escapeway to the safety of miners, 
the extension of the requirements for operation of equipment in the 
primary escapeway is necessary and appropriate.
    Paragraph (f)(3) lists the equipment that is not permitted in the 
primary escapeway. Under paragraph (f)(3)(i) of the final rule, 
operating diesel equipment without an automatic fire suppression system 
is prohibited in the primary escapeway unless it is attended, except as 
provided in paragraphs (f)(6) and (f)(7). One commenter stated that 
attended diesel equipment with a manual fire suppression system 
presents no fire hazard. Another commenter suggested that unattended 
diesel equipment should be prohibited. When diesel equipment is 
operated in the primary escapeway and is properly attended and equipped 
with a manual fire suppression system, the equipment operator can 
immediately respond to a fire, and the safety afforded by the existing 
standard is maintained. If the machine is shut off, however, attendance 
is not necessary. When diesel equipment is to be operated unattended, 
an automatic system is required to protect against fire.
    One commenter stated that ``attended'' should be interpreted to 
mean that the operator is on or within sight of the vehicle. Another 
commenter urged that the standard be clarified to require that the 
operator be at the controls of the equipment. For the purposes of 
Sec. 75.380(f), by ``attended'' MSHA means that the equipment operator 
would be on the mobile 

[[Page 9814]]
equipment or immediately adjacent to the equipment and be capable of 
activating the fire suppression system in the event of a fire.
    The existing standard permits equipment to be in the escapeway for 
purposes of transporting miners and materials and for maintaining the 
escapeway but does not expressly prohibit the haulage of coal in the 
primary escapeway. As a matter of clarification, the final rule 
specifically prohibits coal haulage in the primary escapeway unless 
incidental to cleanup and maintenance of the escapeway. One commenter 
supported the proposed prohibition of coal haulage noting that coal 
haulage would provide a ready source of fuel to a machinery-initiated 
fire. Several commenters expressed a concern that incidental coal 
haulage associated with cleanup and maintenance of the primary 
escapeway would be prohibited under the proposed standard. Cleanup and 
maintenance of the primary escapeway must be permitted. Therefore, the 
final rule modifies the proposal to permit mobile equipment to haul 
coal if incidental to cleanup and maintenance of the primary escapeway.
    Paragraph (f)(3)(iii) prohibits compressors in the primary 
escapeway except as provided in subparagraphs (f)(3)(iii) (A) through 
(C). Subparagraph (A) allows compressors necessary to maintain the 
escapeway in safe, travelable condition; (B) allows compressors that 
are components of equipment such as locomotives and rock dusting 
machines; and, (C) allows compressors of less than five horsepower due 
to the limited fire hazard associated with their operation.
    One commenter described an incident involving a compressor in an 
intake airway, which was located in a fireproof enclosure but was 
improperly ventilated. According to the commenter, smoke and 
contaminants spread throughout the intake entry and reached the 
section, which was then evacuated. This illustrates the importance of 
providing adequate protection from the possible spread of smoke and 
contaminants associated with compressor fires or overheating.
    Paragraph (f)(3)(iv) of the final rule adds battery chargers to the 
equipment included in the proposal that is permitted in the primary 
escapeway provided they are located on or near a working section and 
moved as the section advances or retreats. In all other respects, 
paragraph (f)(3)(iv) of the final rule adopts the proposal. Under 
paragraph (f)(3)(iv), underground transformer stations, battery 
charging stations, substations, and rectifiers cannot be located in the 
primary escapeway except: (A) where necessary to maintain the escapeway 
in safe, travelable condition; and (B) battery chargers and rectifiers 
and power centers with transformers that are either dry-type or contain 
nonflammable liquid, provided they are located on or near a working 
section and are moved as the section advances or retreats. The first 
exception allows work to be performed in the primary escapeway to 
assure its integrity. The second provides for the locations of the 
described equipment at or near working sections if the equipment moves 
with the section. Equipment at or near working sections will normally 
be within a few crosscuts of the working face. In many cases, 
particularly with battery chargers, there may be no practical 
alternative to locating this equipment in the escapeway. In addition, 
Sec. 75.340 provides additional protection when using underground 
electrical equipment.
    Paragraph (f)(3)(v) of the final rule adopts the proposal and 
prohibits water pumps from being in the primary escapeway except as 
provided under paragraphs (f)(3)(v)(A) through (f)(3)(v)(F). The pumps 
that are permitted in the primary escapeway are the same ones that are 
excepted from the requirements of Sec. 75.340 due to the low potential 
for fire associated with their operation. They include: water pumps 
necessary to maintain the escapeway in safe, travelable condition; 
submersible pumps; permissible pumps and associated permissible 
switchgear; pumps located on or near a working section that are moved 
as the section advances or retreats; pumps installed in anthracite 
mines; and small portable pumps. While the existing rule refers to the 
electrical equipment described in Sec. 75.340 (a) and (b)(1), the final 
rule, like the proposal, lists the affected equipment for the 
convenience of the reader. Like Sec. 75.340, paragraph (f)(3)(v) 
applies to water pumps and emulsion pumps when they are located on or 
near the working section and are moved as the section advances or 
retreats. One commenter agreed that pumps may be necessary to maintain 
and rehabilitate the primary escapeway but suggested that a time limit 
be placed on the length of time the pump is allowed to remain in the 
escapeway. MSHA believes that specific conditions at the mine will 
govern the amount of time required for any necessary pumping. 
Therefore, MSHA has not included the suggestion in the final rule since 
the decision relative to time must be made on a case-by-case basis, as 
appropriate.
    Paragraph (f)(4) of the final rule adopts MSHA's proposal with one 
change. As proposed, paragraph (f)(4) would have required the use of 
fire suppression systems on mobile equipment operated in the primary 
escapeway, and would have allowed exceptions for continuous miners and 
as provided in Sec. 75.380 (f)(5) and (f)(6). The final rule adds an 
additional exception for emergency vehicles or ambulances as provided 
in Sec. 75.380(f)(7). Unlike the existing standard, the final rule in 
paragraph (f)(4) permits certain mobile equipment operated in the 
primary escapeway to be protected with a manual fire suppression system 
instead of an automatic system, provided it is attended by a person 
trained in the use and operation of the fire suppression system. MSHA 
believes that when a piece of equipment is operated in the primary 
escapeway and is properly attended and equipped with a manual fire 
suppression system, the equipment operator can immediately respond to 
the situation, and the safety afforded by the existing standard is 
maintained.
    One commenter stated that no electrical, battery or diesel 
equipment, or other equipment such as compressors should be allowed in 
the primary escapeway, except for the purpose of maintenance of the 
escapeway, and that this equipment should have an appropriate fire 
suppression system. Because travel in the escapeway in certain mining 
systems is essential for safety given the design of the mining system 
used, the recommendation of the commenter has not been adopted in the 
final rule. Instead, the final rule provides that certain types of 
mining equipment can be operated in the primary escapeway provided the 
safety precautions set out in the standard are followed. One commenter 
stated that the rule should only apply to mobile equipment which is 
operated in the primary escapeway, since equipment not operating 
presents little or no hazard. MSHA agrees and has incorporated this 
clarification into the final rule.
    Commenters indicated that it is sometimes necessary to withdraw 
face equipment, such as continuous miners, roof bolting machines and 
shuttle cars, into the primary escapeway for a short distance beyond 
the loading point. The equipment is sometimes parked and left there on 
down shifts or between shifts. MSHA notes that, as clarified, the final 
rule does not prohibit this practice. Because the equipment would be 
attended when operated and is provided with manual fire suppression, 
the 

[[Page 9815]]
equipment may be operated in the primary escapeway.
    Following promulgation of the existing rule, some persons construed 
the requirement for an automatic fire suppression system to apply to 
electric face equipment. As explained in the preamble to the proposal, 
this was not the intent of MSHA. To clarify its intent, MSHA issued 
Program Policy Letter No. P92-V-4 on November 16, 1992, addressing the 
operation and location of equipment in primary escapeways. Under 
existing regulations in Subpart L--Fire Protection, face equipment is 
required to be protected by a manual fire suppression system. The final 
rule recognizes and generally conforms with this requirement. Other 
than for an exception to permit a situation such as the movement of 
continuous mining machines between sections without a continuous water 
supply, the final rule requires that when face machinery, equipped with 
a manual fire suppression system, is operated in the primary escapeway, 
it must be attended by a person trained in the proper function and use 
of the fire suppression system. The continuous mining machine exception 
recognizes that the fire suppression system for the continuous mining 
machine often relies on a water supply that may be impracticable to 
provide during equipment moves.
    The final rule requires in paragraph (f)(4) that with exceptions 
for continuous mining machines and as provided in paragraphs (f)(5), 
(f)(6), and (f)(7), each piece of mobile equipment operated in primary 
escapeways shall: (1) be equipped with manually operated fire 
suppression systems installed in compliance with Secs. 75.1107-3 
through 75.1107-16 and be attended continuously; or (2) be equipped 
with an automatic fire suppression system that is capable of both 
automatic and manual activation and installed in compliance with 
Secs. 75.1107-3 through 75.1107-16. Fire suppression systems which were 
installed to meet the 1992 rule will continue to be accepted.
    Under paragraph (f)(5) of the final rule, personnel carriers and 
small personnel conveyances designed and used solely for the 
transportation of personnel and small hand tools can be operated in the 
primary escapeway if either of the requirements under paragraphs (i) or 
(ii) are met. This class of equipment would not include diesel-powered 
pickup trucks, for example, which would be governed by paragraph 
(f)(4). Paragraph (i) requires a multipurpose dry chemical type 
automatic fire suppression system capable of both manual and automatic 
activation. Paragraph (ii) provides an alternative for a class of 
small, battery powered, golf cart type, equipment used for transport of 
persons and small hand tools. In this case, fire extinguishers may be 
used in lieu of a fire suppression system.
    Commenters questioned the need for automatic systems on the class 
of equipment consisting of small, battery powered, golf cart type 
equipment. One commenter suggested that a manual fire suppression 
system should be accepted. After a review of the issue, MSHA has 
concluded that some types of mobile equipment present a very limited 
fire hazard. In the case of small, battery operated, golf cart type, 
conveyances designed and used for the transport of personnel and small 
hand tools, considering the limited hazard, a trained operator provided 
with two 10 pound multi-purpose dry chemical fire extinguishers is 
equivalent in protection to a fire suppression system. Accordingly, as 
an alternative under paragraph (ii), small battery powered, golf cart 
type, equipment may be operated in the primary escapeway if provided 
with two 10 pound multi-purpose dry chemical fire extinguishers. Unlike 
diesel powered equipment, the golf cart type of equipment is shut off 
when not operating and, therefore, attendance is not an issue. The 10 
pound units are standard size extinguishers and are appropriate for the 
equipment involved.
    The system used in accordance with paragraph (i) must be suitable 
for the intended application and listed or approved by a nationally 
recognized independent testing laboratory. The language was proposed as 
two paragraphs but has been combined in the final rule under paragraph 
(i) and an alternative has been added as paragraph (ii). The types of 
machinery which fall under paragraph (f)(5) are not required to meet 
the additional requirements of Secs. 75.1107-3 through 75.1107-16. For 
example, it would be impractical and would not enhance safety to apply 
the minimum dry chemical poundage requirements of Sec. 75.1107-9 to 
small equipment designed and used solely for personnel and small hand 
tools.
    During informational meetings, it was suggested that the term ``dry 
chemical'' would be more accurate and appropriate than the term ``dry 
powder'' used in the existing standard. Like the proposal, the final 
rule adopts this language. MSHA received no comments on this proposed 
revision
    Paragraph (f)(6) of the final rule provides an exception to the 
general requirement and allows mobile equipment not provided with a 
fire suppression system to operate in the primary escapeway if no 
persons are inby other than persons directly engaged in the use or 
moving of the equipment. This provision of the final rule allows for 
the necessary movement of face equipment, such as between sections.
    One commenter stated that the exemption provided in (f)(6) should 
be expanded to allow equipment that does not have a fire suppression 
system to be relocated provided monitoring equipment is utilized for 
carbon monoxide or smoke and two-way communication is available to 
notify appropriate persons. The final rule does not adopt this 
suggestion. During moves, equipment is often laboring at maximum 
capacity and there can be several machines operating simultaneously. 
Under these conditions, equipment fires can develop quickly and the 
products of combustion would be carried to inby workers by the 
ventilating current. By permitting only workers who are directly 
engaged in the operation or movement of the equipment, the final rule 
prevents other workers from being exposed to the hazards of a fire on 
the equipment being moved. Workers operating or engaged in moving the 
equipment will be in a position to quickly identify the hazard and take 
necessary action.
    Another commenter objected to the provision stating that fire 
suppression should be required on all equipment in the primary 
escapeway. This suggestion has not been adopted in the final rule. MSHA 
does not agree that fire suppression is needed when no persons are inby 
or downstream of the equipment being moved. MSHA has concluded that 
either these machines should be equipped with fire suppression, or fire 
extinguishers as in (f)(5)(ii), or no persons should be inby the 
location where the equipment is being operated except those persons 
directly engaged in the operation or movement of the equipment.
    Another commenter suggested that the wording of (f)(6) could be 
read to allow miners to work on a longwall face while equipment not 
equipped with fire suppression is operated anywhere in the primary 
escapeway. This is not permitted by the standard. By including the 
phrase, ``. . . except those persons directly engaged in using or 
moving the equipment'', the persons affected are only those persons in 
the immediate vicinity of the machine. With no persons working inby, 
the use of machinery without a fire suppression system would not expose 
persons to the hazard of toxic gases and fumes from a fire on the 
equipment. The language 

[[Page 9816]]
also would not permit persons to operate mobile equipment without a 
fire suppression system in the primary escapeway while miners are 
downstream working on a longwall face. The controlling factor is 
whether the persons inby are directly engaged in using or moving that 
particular piece of equipment. If they are, and no one else is inby, 
the equipment may be operated without a fire suppression system. For 
example, when moving a longwall shield, no one would be permitted to be 
inby the machine being used to move the shield if the machine is not 
provided with a fire suppression system except those persons moving the 
shield. This would include miners operating other pieces of equipment 
to move other shields.
    Paragraph (f)(7) modifies the existing rule to include a new 
exemption to the requirement that mobile equipment operated in primary 
escapeways have a fire suppression system. Paragraph (f)(7) permits 
mobile equipment designated and used only as emergency vehicles or 
ambulances to operate in the primary escapeway without fire suppression 
systems. It was suggested to MSHA that certain types of emergency 
equipment, such as diesel powered ambulances, should be exempt from the 
requirements for fire suppression systems. Comments were received 
suggesting that ambulances should be exempt because space is extremely 
limited on these vehicles and because they are used infrequently. MSHA 
recognizes the potential benefit in the use of this type of equipment. 
Another commenter objected, foreseeing potential abuses of the 
exemption by mine operators who would designate equipment as ambulances 
but use it as ordinary equipment. The final rule permits emergency 
vehicles to be operated in the primary escapeway without fire 
suppression systems only when this equipment is used for medical 
emergencies.
    This existing rule requires in paragraph (i)(2) that mechanical 
escape facilities be provided and maintained for, ``. . . each slope 
that is part of a designated escapeway that is either inclined 18 
degrees or more from the horizontal or is inclined 9 degrees or more 
from the horizontal and is greater than 1,000 feet in length.'' During 
informational meetings, MSHA became aware of a concern that existing 
paragraph (i)(2) would permit slopes of significant length and 
inclination to exist without any mechanical escape facilities. An 
example would be a slope of 900 feet inclined less than 18 degrees from 
the horizontal. It was suggested that such a slope could be 
particularly difficult for passage of injured persons under cold and 
icy conditions if mechanical escape facilities were not provided. In 
light of this concern, MSHA proposed to require that mechanical escape 
facilities be provided and maintained from the coal seam to the surface 
for each slope that is part of a designated escapeway and is inclined 
more than 9 degrees from the horizontal. The final rule adopts the 
proposal.
    One commenter objected to proposed paragraph (i)(2) indicating that 
facilities are unnecessary in low angle slopes which are of short 
length. Other commenters believed that the 1992 standard was 
appropriate. Another commenter indicated support for the proposal as a 
way to enable persons to escape quickly in an emergency. This commenter 
also noted that escape can be very difficult in icy winter conditions 
in some slopes. After consideration of the comments received, MSHA 
concludes that the proposal was appropriate and the final rule adopts 
this aspect of the proposal.
    One commenter suggested that proposed paragraph (i)(2) could be 
interpreted as requiring mechanical escape facilities for slopes that 
occur naturally underground. It was not MSHA's intent to apply 
paragraph (i)(2) to slopes other than from the coal seam to the 
surface. The final rule clarifies this and requires that mechanical 
escape facilities be provided for each slope from the coal seam to the 
surface that is part of a designated escapeway and is inclined more 
than 9 degrees from the horizontal.
    Like the proposal, the final rule in paragraph(d)(5) revises the 
existing language dealing with the location of escapeways. It provides 
that escapes shall be located to follow the most direct, safe and 
practical route to the nearest mine opening suitable for the safe 
evacuation of miners. A question arose during an informational meeting 
as to whether MSHA intended that the existing rule eliminate the 
requirement that escapeways be routed to the ``nearest mine opening.'' 
It was not MSHA's intent to change this requirement from the previous 
standard. The existing requirement that the escapeway follow the most 
direct route to the surface would, in fact, require the route to go to 
the nearest mine opening. However, to eliminate any confusion that may 
exist, the final rule revises paragraph (d)(5) and adopts language 
similar to that in previous regulation, Sec. 75.1704-2(a), that is, 
that the escapeway must follow the most direct, safe and practical 
route to the nearest mine opening suitable for the safe evacuation of 
miners.
    One commenter stated that escapeways should not be permitted to 
pass an opening to be routed to a more distant opening. Another 
commenter stated that the nearest mine opening may not always be the 
safest due to roof conditions or other factors. MSHA acknowledges that 
the nearest mine opening may not always be the safest route to the 
surface. A number of factors affect whether or not the safest, most 
direct, practical route has been selected. These factors include roof 
conditions, travel height, fan location, physical dimensions of the 
mine opening, and similar considerations. For example, if bad roof 
conditions are present along the shortest direct route and those roof 
conditions are beyond reasonable control, then an alternate ``safe'' 
route designated by the mine operator may be appropriate. However, the 
presence of roof falls does not necessarily indicate that the 
passageway would not be suitable for evacuation if it is reasonable to 
rehabilitate the area. By way of another example, where coal seam 
thickness varies to the extreme, the shortest route may be through 
lower coal, making travel relatively slow and difficult. An alternate 
route through a high passageway may permit easier travel. Such an 
alternate route, although longer, may be more practical and therefore 
may be more appropriate. Similarly, there can be instances where the 
``nearest mine opening'' may not be suitable for safe evacuation of 
miners. For example, an old mine shaft may not be safe for travel 
because of badly deteriorated conditions, such as a deteriorated shaft 
lining or deteriorated timbers, even though the shaft is still suitable 
for mine ventilation purposes.
    As with the existing standard, mine development projections do not 
have to be altered to provide additional rooms, entries, or crosscuts 
for the sole purpose of providing a passageway to the nearest mine 
opening. However, the construction of ventilation controls such as 
stoppings, overcasts and undercasts, or the installation of an escape 
facility may be required to provide the most direct, safe and practical 
route to the surface.
    One commenter suggested that MSHA should require an escapeway plan 
to be approved by the MSHA district manager to assure the most direct 
route to the surface. Existing standards require that escapeways be 
shown on the ventilation map. In addition, as with other regulations, 
inspectors assess whether escapeways follow the most direct, safe and 
practical route to the surface during each regular inspection. 
Accordingly, MSHA does not believe that an additional plan is 
necessary. 

[[Page 9817]]

    Existing paragraph (f) establishes the requirements for ventilation 
of the primary escapeway and identifies which equipment can be operated 
in the primary escapeway and the fire suppression requirements for this 
equipment. The final rule, like the proposal, modifies paragraph (f) to 
explicitly identify the equipment that is not permitted in the primary 
escapeway and to specify the types of fire suppression systems that are 
to be used and the conditions under which each is to be used on 
equipment permitted in the primary escapeway. This is done by replacing 
existing paragraphs (f)(1) and (f)(2) with paragraphs (f)(1) through 
(f)(7) in the final.
    Existing paragraph (f)(1) requires that one escapeway that is 
ventilated with intake air be designated as the primary escapeway and 
prohibits certain equipment from being used in the primary escapeway in 
areas developed after November 15, 1992. Further, paragraph (f)(1) 
requires fire suppression systems on mobile equipment that is operated 
in the primary escapeway. The final rule transfers the part of existing 
paragraph (f)(1) that specifies the area of the primary escapeway 
affected to paragraph (f)(2).
    The existing rule limited the installation or use of certain 
equipment in areas of the primary escapeway developed after November 
15, 1992. Paragraph (f)(2) of the final rule modifies the existing rule 
for clarity and expands the application of certain requirements 
contained in paragraphs (f)(3) through (f)(7) to the entire primary 
escapeway except those areas of the primary escapeway developed prior 
to March 30, 1970 where separation of the primary escapeway from the 
belt and trolley haulage entries did not exist as of November 16, 1992. 
For areas of mines developed after September 15, 1992, (those areas 
covered by the existing rule) the provisions of paragraphs (f)(3) 
through (f)(7) will be effective as of March 11, 1997. For other areas 
covered by the rule, MSHA has provided for a 1 year phase in period to 
allow mine operators time to effectively plan and implement the 
necessary changes. The phase in period applies to areas of a primary 
escapeway developed between March 30, 1970 and November 16, 1992, and 
to areas of the primary escapeway developed prior to March 30, 1970 
where separation of the belt and trolley haulage entries from the 
primary escapeway existed prior to November 16, 1992.
    Paragraph (f)(3) prohibits certain equipment from the primary 
escapeway. Paragraphs (f)(4) and (f)(5) deal with fire protection for 
mobile equipment that is permitted in the primary escapeway and 
paragraph (f)(6) addresses a specific circumstance when mobile 
equipment may operate in a primary escapeway without a fire suppression 
system. Paragraph (f)(7), a provision added to the proposed language in 
response to comments, allows the use of designated emergency vehicles 
or ambulances in the primary escapeway.
    One commenter suggested that the final rule should not provide an 
exception for all areas where separation of the primary escapeway from 
the belt and trolley haulage entry does not exist. The commenter 
recognized, however, that Congress granted an exemption from separation 
requirements for areas of the primary escapeway developed prior to 
March 30, 1970, the effective date of the Act. The intent of the 
proposal was to provide an exemption from the requirements of proposed 
paragraphs (f)(3) through (f)(6) for these same areas. The commenter 
points out that the proposal would have extended the exemption to other 
areas of the primary escapeway where, for one reason or another, 
separation did not exist on November 16, 1992, the effective date of 
the existing rule. The final rule modifies the proposal to clarify that 
the exemption only applies to those areas of the escapeway that were 
developed prior to March 30, 1970 and where separation did not exist on 
November 16, 1992.
    Another commenter correctly interpreted proposed paragraph (f)(2) 
as extending the requirement that limits the types of equipment 
permitted in primary escapeways to areas of the mine developed prior to 
November 16, 1992. The commenter stated that the proposed regulation 
would pose great cost to the industry with no appreciable safety 
benefit derived. A review of the fire history relative to both 
stationary and mobile equipment indicates that fires can and do occur 
on this equipment. Mobile equipment by design is intended to provide 
flexibility in movement and is capable of operating anywhere in the 
mine. Although the accident reports do not specify whether the mobile 
equipment that caught fire was in the primary escapeway when the fire 
started, it is reasonable to conclude that at least some of these fires 
did occur in the primary escapeway. MSHA continues to believe that 
given the importance of the primary escapeway to the safety of miners, 
the extension of the requirements for operation of equipment in the 
primary escapeway is appropriate.
    Paragraph (f)(3) lists the equipment that is not permitted in the 
primary escapeway. Under paragraph(f)(3)(i) of the final rule, 
operating diesel equipment without an automatic fire suppression system 
is prohibited in the primary escapeway unless it is attended, except as 
provided in paragraphs (f)(6) and (f)(7). One commenter stated that 
attended diesel equipment with a manual fire suppression system 
presents no fire hazard. Another commenter suggested that unattended 
diesel equipment should be prohibited. When diesel equipment is 
operated in the primary escapeway and is properly attended and equipped 
with a manual fire suppression system, the equipment operator can 
immediately respond to a fire, and the safety afforded by the existing 
standard is maintained. If the machine is shut off, however, attendance 
is not necessary. When diesel equipment is to be operated unattended, 
an automatic system is required to protect against fire.
    One commenter stated that ``attended'' should be interpreted to 
mean that the operator is on or within sight of the vehicle. Another 
commenter urged that the standard be clarified to require that the 
operator be at the controls of the equipment. For the purposes of 
Sec. 75.380(f), by ``attended'' MSHA means that the equipment operator 
would be on the mobile equipment or immediately adjacent to the 
equipment and be capable of activating the fire suppression system 
immediately in the event of a fire.
    The existing standard permits equipment to be in the escapeway for 
purposes of transporting miners and materials and for maintaining the 
escapeway but does not expressly prohibit the haulage of coal in the 
primary escapeway. As a matter of clarification, the final rule 
specifically prohibits coal haulage in the primary escapeway unless 
incidental to cleanup and maintenance of the escapeway. One commenter 
supported the proposed prohibition of coal haulage noting that coal 
haulage would provide a ready source of fuel to a machinery-initiated 
fire. Several commenters expressed a concern that incidental coal 
haulage associated with cleanup and maintenance of the primary 
escapeway would be prohibited under the proposed standard. Cleanup and 
maintenance of the primary escapeway must be permitted. Therefore, the 
final rule modifies the proposal to permit mobile equipment to haul 
coal if incidental to cleanup and maintenance of the primary escapeway.
    Paragraph (f)(3)(iii) prohibits compressors in the primary 
escapeway except as provided in subparagraphs (f)(3)(iii) (A) through 
(C). Subparagraph 

[[Page 9818]]
(A) allows compressors necessary to maintain the escapeway in safe, 
travelable condition; (B) allows compressors that are components of 
equipment such as locomotives and rock dusting machines; and, (C) 
allows compressors of less than five horsepower due to the limited fire 
hazard associated with their operation.
    One commenter described an incident involving a compressor in an 
intake airway, which was located in a fireproof enclosure but was 
improperly ventilated. According to the commenter, smoke and 
contaminants spread throughout the intake entry and reached the 
section, which was then evacuated. This illustrates the importance of 
providing adequate protection from the possible spread of smoke and 
contaminants associated with compressor fires or overheating.
    Paragraph (f)(3)(iv) of the final rule adds battery chargers to the 
equipment included in the proposal that is permitted in the primary 
escapeway provided it is located on or near a working section and is 
moved as the section advances or retreats. In all other respects, 
paragraph (f)(3)(iv) of the final rule adopts the proposal. Under 
paragraph (f)(3)(iv), underground transformer stations, battery 
charging stations, substations, and rectifiers cannot be located in the 
primary escapeway except: (A) where necessary to maintain the escapeway 
in safe, travelable condition; and (B) battery chargers and rectifiers 
and power centers with transformers that are either dry-type or contain 
nonflammable liquid, provided they are located on or near a working 
section and are moved as the section advances or retreats. The first 
exception allows work to be performed in the primary escapeway to 
assure its integrity. The second provides for the locations of the 
described equipment at or near working sections if the equipment moves 
with the section. Equipment at or near working sections will normally 
be within a few crosscuts of the working face. In many cases, 
particularly with battery chargers, there may be no practical 
alternative to locating this equipment in the escapeway. In addition, 
Sec. 75.340 provides additional protection when using underground 
electrical equipment.
    Paragraph (f)(3)(v) of the final rule adopts the proposal and 
prohibits water pumps from being in the primary escapeway except as 
provided under paragraphs (f)(3)(v)(A) through (f)(3)(v)(F). The pumps 
that are permitted in the primary escapeway are the same ones that are 
excepted from the requirements of Sec. 75.340 due to the low potential 
for fire associated with their operation. They include: water pumps 
necessary to maintain the escapeway in safe, travelable condition; 
submersible pumps; permissible pumps and associated permissible 
switchgear; pumps located on or near a working section that are moved 
as the section advances or retreats; pumps installed in anthracite 
mines; and small portable pumps. While the existing rule refers to the 
electrical equipment described in Sec. 75.340 (a) and (b)(1), the final 
rule, like the proposal, lists the affected equipment for the 
convenience of the reader. Like Sec. 75.340, paragraph (f)(3)(v) 
applies to water pumps and emulsion pumps when they are located on or 
near the working section and are moved as the section advances or 
retreats. One commenter agreed that pumps may be necessary to maintain 
and rehabilitate the primary escapeway but suggested that a time limit 
be placed on the length of time the pump is allowed to remain in the 
escapeway. MSHA believes that specific conditions at the mine will 
govern the amount of time required for any necessary pumping. 
Therefore, MSHA has not included the suggestion in the final rule since 
the decision relative to time must be made on a case-by-case basis, as 
appropriate.
    Paragraph (f)(4) of the final rule adopts MSHA's proposal with one 
change. As proposed, paragraph (f)(4) would have required the use of 
fire suppression systems on mobile equipment operated in the primary 
escapeway, and would have allowed exceptions for continuous miners and 
as provided in Sec. 75.380(f)(5)and (f)(6). The final rule adds an 
additional exception for emergency vehicles or ambulances as provided 
in Sec. 75.380(f)(7). Unlike the existing standard, the final rule in 
paragraph (f)(4) permits certain mobile equipment operated in the 
primary escapeway to be protected with a manual fire suppression system 
instead of an automatic system, provided it is continuously attended by 
a person trained in the use and operation of the fire suppression 
system. MSHA believes that when a piece of equipment is operated in the 
primary escapeway and is properly attended and equipped with a manual 
fire suppression system, the equipment operator can immediately respond 
to the situation, and the safety afforded by the existing standard is 
maintained.
    One commenter stated that no electrical, battery or diesel 
equipment, or other equipment such as compressors should be allowed in 
the primary escapeway, except for the purpose of maintenance of the 
escapeway, and that this equipment should have an appropriate fire 
suppression system. Because travel in the escapeway in certain mining 
systems is essential for safety given the design of the mining system 
used, the recommendation of the commenter has not been adopted in the 
final rule. Instead, the final rule provides that certain types of 
mining equipment can be operated in the primary escapeway provided the 
safety precautions set out in the standard are followed. One commenter 
stated that the rule should only apply to mobile equipment which is 
operated in the primary escapeway, since equipment not operating 
presents little or no hazard. MSHA agrees and has incorporated this 
clarification into the final rule.
    Commenters indicated that it is sometimes necessary to withdraw 
face equipment, such as continuous miners, roof bolting machines and 
shuttle cars, into the primary escapeway for a short distance beyond 
the loading point. The equipment is sometimes parked and left there on 
down shifts or between shifts. MSHA notes that, as clarified, the final 
rule does not prohibit this practice. Because the equipment would be 
attended when operated and is provided with manual fire suppression, 
the equipment may be operated in the primary escapeway.
    Following promulgation of the existing rule, some persons construed 
the requirement for an automatic fire suppression system to apply to 
electric face equipment. As explained in the preamble to the proposal, 
this was not the intent of MSHA. To clarify its intent, MSHA issued 
Program Policy Letter No. P92-V-4 on November 16, 1992, addressing the 
operation and location of equipment in primary escapeways. Under 
existing regulations in Subpart L--Fire Protection, face equipment is 
required to be protected by a manual fire suppression system. The final 
rule recognizes and generally conforms with this requirement. Other 
than for an exception to permit a situation such as the movement of 
continuous mining machines between sections without a continuous water 
supply, the final rule requires that when face machinery, equipped with 
a manual fire suppression system, is operated in the primary escapeway, 
it must be attended by a person trained in the proper function and use 
of the fire suppression system. The continuous mining machine exception 
recognizes that the fire suppression system for the continuous mining 
machine often relies on a water supply that may be impracticable to 
provide during equipment moves. 

[[Page 9819]]

    The final rule requires in paragraph (f)(4) that with exceptions 
for continuous mining machines and as provided in paragraphs (f)(5), 
(f)(6), and (f)(7), each piece of mobile equipment operated in primary 
escapeways shall: (1) be equipped with manually operated fire 
suppression systems installed in compliance with Secs. 75.1107-3 
through 75.1107-16 and be attended continuously; or (2) be equipped 
with an automatic fire suppression system that is capable of both 
automatic and manual activation and installed in compliance with 
Secs. 75.1107-3 through 75.1107-16.
    Under paragraph (f)(5) of the final rule, personnel carriers and 
small personnel conveyances designed and used solely for the 
transportation of personnel and small hand tools can be operated in the 
primary escapeway if either of the requirements under paragraphs (i) or 
(ii) are met. Paragraph (i) requires a multipurpose dry chemical type 
automatic fire suppression system capable of both manual and automatic 
activation. Paragraph (ii) provides an alternative for a class of 
small, battery powered, golf cart type, equipment used for transport of 
persons and small hand tools. In this case, fire extinguishers may be 
used in lieu of a fire suppression system.
    Commenters questioned the need for automatic systems on the class 
of equipment consisting of small, battery powered, golf cart type 
equipment. One commenter suggested that a manual fire suppression 
system should be accepted. After a review of the issue, MSHA has 
concluded that some types of mobile equipment present a very limited 
fire hazard. In the case of small, battery operated, golf cart type, 
conveyances designed and used for the transport of personnel and small 
hand tools, considering the limited hazard, a trained operator provided 
with two 10 pound multi-purpose dry chemical fire extinguishers is 
equivalent in protection to a fire suppression system. Accordingly, as 
an alternative under paragraph (ii), small battery powered, golf cart 
type, equipment may be operated in the primary escapeway if provided 
with two 10 pound multi-purpose dry chemical fire extinguishers. Unlike 
diesel powered equipment, the golf cart type of equipment is shut off 
when not operating and, therefore, attendance is not an issue. The 10 
pound units are standard size extinguishers and are appropriate for the 
equipment involved.
    The system used in accordance with paragraph (i) must be suitable 
for the intended application and listed or approved by a nationally 
recognized independent testing laboratory. The language was proposed as 
two paragraphs but has been combined in the final rule under paragraph 
(i) and an alternative has been added as paragraph (ii). The types of 
machinery which fall under paragraph (f)(5) are not required to meet 
the additional requirements of Secs. 75.1107-3 through 75.1107-16. For 
example, it would be impractical and would not enhance safety to apply 
the minimum dry chemical poundage requirements of Sec. 75.1107-9 to 
small equipment designed and used solely for personnel and small hand 
tools.
    During informational meetings, it was suggested that the term ``dry 
chemical'' would be more accurate and appropriate than the term ``dry 
powder'' used in the existing standard. Like the proposal, the final 
rule adopts this language. MSHA received no comments on this proposed 
revision.
    Paragraph (f)(6) of the final rule provides an exception to the 
general requirement and allows mobile equipment not provided with a 
fire suppression system to operate in the primary escapeway if no 
persons are inby other than persons directly engaged in the use or 
moving of the equipment. This provision of the final rule allows for 
the necessary movement of face equipment, such as between sections.
    One commenter stated that the exemption provided in (f)(6) should 
be expanded to allow equipment that does not have a fire suppression 
system to be relocated provided monitoring equipment is utilized for 
carbon monoxide or smoke and two-way communication is available to 
notify appropriate persons. The final rule does not adopt this 
suggestion. During moves, equipment is often laboring at maximum 
capacity and there can be several machines operating simultaneously. 
Under these conditions, equipment fires can develop quickly and the 
products of combustion would be carried to inby workers by the 
ventilating current. By permitting only workers who are directly 
engaged in the operation or movement of the equipment, the final rule 
prevents other workers from being exposed to the hazards of a fire on 
the equipment being moved. Workers operating or engaged in moving the 
equipment will be in a position to quickly identify the hazard and take 
necessary action.
    Another commenter objected to the provision stating that fire 
suppression should be required on all equipment in the primary 
escapeway. This suggestion has not been adopted in the final rule. MSHA 
does not agree that fire suppression is needed when no persons are inby 
or downstream of the equipment being moved. MSHA has concluded that 
either these machines should be equipped with fire suppression, or fire 
extinguishers as in (f)(5)(ii), or no persons should be inby the 
location where the equipment is being operated except those persons 
directly engaged in the operation or movement of the equipment.
    Another commenter suggested that the wording of (f)(6) could be 
read to allow miners to work on a longwall face while equipment not 
equipped with fire suppression is operated anywhere in the primary 
escapeway. This is not permitted by the standard. By including the 
phrase, ``* * * except those persons directly engaged in using or 
moving the equipment'', the persons affected are only those persons in 
the immediate vicinity of the machine. With no persons working inby, 
the use of machinery without a fire suppression system would not expose 
persons to the hazard of toxic gases and fumes from a fire on the 
equipment. The language also would not permit persons to operate mobile 
equipment without a fire suppression system in the primary escapeway 
while miners are downstream working on a longwall face. The controlling 
factor is whether the persons inby are directly engaged in using or 
moving that particular piece of equipment. If they are, and no one else 
is inby, the equipment may be operated without a fire suppression 
system. For example, when moving a longwall shield, no one would be 
permitted to be inby the machine being used to move the shield if the 
machine is not provided with a fire suppression system except those 
persons moving the shield. This would include miners operating other 
pieces of equipment to move other shields.
    Paragraph (f)(7) modifies the existing rule to include a new 
exemption to the requirement that mobile equipment operated in primary 
escapeways have a fire suppression system. Paragraph (f)(7) permits 
mobile equipment designated and used only as emergency vehicles or 
ambulances to operate in the primary escapeway without fire suppression 
systems. It was suggested to MSHA that certain types of emergency 
equipment, such as diesel powered ambulances, should be exempt from the 
requirements for fire suppression systems. Comments were received 
suggesting that ambulances should be exempt because space is extremely 
limited on these vehicles and because they are used infrequently. MSHA 
recognizes the potential benefit in the use of this type of equipment. 
Another commenter objected, foreseeing potential abuses of 

[[Page 9820]]
the exemption by mine operators who would designate equipment as 
ambulances but use it as ordinary equipment. The final rule permits 
emergency vehicles to be operated in the primary escapeway without fire 
suppression systems only when this equipment is used only for medical 
emergencies.
    This existing rule requires in paragraph (i)(2) that mechanical 
escape facilities be provided and maintained for, ``. . . each slope 
that is part of a designated escapeway that is either inclined 18 
degrees or more from the horizontal or is inclined 9 degrees or more 
from the horizontal and is greater than 1,000 feet in length.'' During 
informational meetings, MSHA became aware of a concern that existing 
paragraph (i)(2) would permit slopes of significant length and 
inclination to exist without any mechanical escape facilities. An 
example would be a slope of 900 feet inclined less than 18 degrees from 
the horizontal. It was suggested that such a slope could be 
particularly difficult for passage of injured persons under cold and 
icy conditions if mechanical escape facilities were not provided. In 
light of this concern, MSHA proposed to require that mechanical escape 
facilities be provided and maintained from the coal seam to the surface 
for each slope that is part of a designated escapeway and is inclined 
more than 9 degrees from the horizontal. The final rule adopts the 
proposal.
    One commenter objected to proposed paragraph (i)(2) indicating that 
facilities are unnecessary in low angle slopes which are of short 
length. Other commenters believed that the 1992 standard was 
appropriate. Another commenter indicated support for the proposal as a 
way to enable persons to escape quickly in an emergency. This commenter 
also noted that escape can be very difficult in icy winter conditions 
in some slopes. After consideration of the comments received, MSHA 
concludes that the proposal was appropriate and the final rule adopts 
this aspect of the proposal.
    One commenter suggested that proposed paragraph (i)(2) could be 
interpreted as requiring mechanical escape facilities for slopes tha t 
occur naturally underground. It was not MSHA's intent to apply 
paragraph (i)(2) to slopes other than from the coal seam to the 
surface. The final rule clarifies this and requires that mechanical 
escape facilities be provided for each slope from the coal seam to the 
surface that is part of a designated escapeway and is inclined more 
than 9 degrees from the horizontal.
Section 75.382 Mechanical Escape Facilities
    Because an escapeway route can sometimes be very long, the most 
safe, direct and practical route to the surface can sometimes involve 
the use of a mechanical escape device such as an automatic elevator or 
similar, but less sophisticated, device. Section 75.382 contains the 
requirements for mechanical escape facilities installed in escapeways 
under Sec. 75.380 and Sec. 75.381. The final rule contains a new 
requirement for certification of escape facility examinations, proposed 
as paragraph (g). The final rule does not retain the other proposed 
changes, paragraphs (h) and (i), that would have added recordkeeping 
and countersigning requirements.
    Under paragraph (g) of the final rule, the designated examiner 
certifies by date, time, and initials that the mechanical escape 
facilities examination required by paragraph Sec. 75.382(c) was 
performed. The certification must be located at or near the facility 
examined. Certification has long been an accepted practice in the 
mining industry for assuring that a required examination has been 
completed. One commenter agreed that certification is necessary and 
supported the revision. The commenter indicated that the facilities are 
often designated as escapeways and therefore there should be some 
assurance that the facilities have been examined and are ready for use. 
Also, in the case of mechanical escape facilities, if certification is 
not provided, precious time could be lost as the escape facility is 
tested prior to use to determine if it is functional and safe.
    Under the proposed paragraphs (h) and (i), a record would have had 
to be made of the examination of the escape facility performed in 
accordance with Sec. 75.382 (c). The results of the examination would 
be included in a record, including any deficiency found along with the 
corrective actions taken to correct the condition. One commenter 
supported the revision requiring records of deficiencies found during 
examinations as well as a record of corrective actions. Other 
commenters objected to additional records, noting that they would not 
enhance safety. After review of the comments, MSHA has concluded that 
certification will achieve the intended objective of assuring the 
safety of mechanical escape. Accordingly, the recordkeeping 
requirements proposed as paragraphs (h) and (i) are omitted from the 
final rule.
    One commenter stated that many companies utilize mobile escape 
facilities to cover more than one mine if the mines are located in 
close proximity. The commenter believed that such an arrangement was 
not considered in the countersigning provisions of the proposal and 
stated, ``The effort required to go to each mine every week and track 
down the mine foreman would be burdensome and unnecessary.'' Paragraph 
(c) of the existing rule requires a weekly examination and a weekly 
test in which the hoist must be run through one complete cycle of 
operation to determine that it is operating properly. The final rule 
requires certification to be completed by the examiner. As indicated 
above, MSHA has concluded that certification will achieve the intended 
objective of assuring that the examinations have been conducted.
    Additional comments were received recommending further 
modifications and additions to Sec. 75.382. For example, a commenter 
recommended 2-way communication capability, with supplies and a holding 
area at the escape facility. These types of comments related to issues 
outside the scope of the rulemaking and were not addressed. Another 
commenter would have MSHA reinstate language from an earlier rule, 
alleging a reduction in protection. MSHA does not believe that there is 
a reduction in protection. Also, the final rule did not propose to 
change the existing requirement that the commenter claimed reduced 
protection, i.e., that a person trained to operate the mechanical 
escape facility always shall be available. MSHA notes that this issue 
is outside the scope of the rulemaking.

Section 75.383 Escapeway Maps and Drills

    When a fire, explosion or other emergency necessitates an immediate 
evacuation of a mine the designated route for miners to leave the mine 
is the escapeway. During a mine fire, passageways, even those 
designated as escapeways, can become smoke filled and the ability to 
see can be drastically reduced. Therefore, it is vitally important that miners know the route of
travel through the escapeway. Section 75.383 
provides for the posting of escapeway maps so that they are available 
for miners to study and use during an emergency, if necessary. Section 
75.383 also provides for miners to be trained in the escape route 
through escapeway drills. Escapeway drills in mines are similar to fire 
drills in schools and high rise buildings.
    Existing paragraphs (a) and (b)(1) of Sec. 75.383 deal with the 
escapeway map and drill requirements in areas where mechanized mining 
equipment is being 

[[Page 9821]]
installed or removed. Based on comments received, the final rule 
contains 2 revisions to the proposal. The first allows the mine map to 
be readily accessible as an alternative to posting. The second requires 
that miners who are underground when any change is made to the 
escapeway map be immediately notified of the change. These revisions to 
the proposal are discussed below.
    One commenter supported the requirements of (a) and (b)(1) noting 
the hazards and activities where mechanized mining equipment is being 
installed or removed. Another commenter stated that the requirement 
that the map be ``posted'' is impractical in some mines. The commenter 
stated that the rule should simply require that the map be maintained 
on the section to allow the map to be maintained in a map tube, or be 
covered. The commenter also indicated that a map tube could aid miners 
in a rapid escape since the map and tube could easily be taken with the 
miners during the escape. MSHA agrees that the maintenance of a posted 
map could be difficult in some conditions such as in wet or very low 
height mines. Accordingly, the final rule provides an option wherein 
the map may be either posted or be maintained in a location readily 
accessible to all miners. In specifying ``readily accessible'' MSHA 
intends that all miners be made aware of the map location and have 
access to review the map at any time. As an example, a map secured in a 
locked tool chest would not be acceptable.
    One commenter objected to paragraph (a) in two respects. First, 
according to the commenter, the standard does not require maps to show 
the revised escapeway routes until the end of the shift on which the 
changes are made. The commenter believes that changes are projected in 
advance and therefore the maps should be updated immediately. Second, 
the commenter indicated that the requirement that miners must be 
informed of the changes before entering the mine does not address 
affected miners already underground. Many changes within escapeways are 
not known or planned well in advance. Often, such revisions are in 
response to changing conditions underground. MSHA does not believe that 
allowing a portion of one shift is an excessive amount of time to 
update the maps. MSHA does agree, however, that changes to the 
escapeways should be immediately brought to the attention of all miners 
who are underground at the time of a change. Accordingly, the final 
rule specifies that all affected miners already underground must be 
immediately notified of the change. This will assure that all affected 
miners are aware of the change from the time the change is implemented.
    While agreeing that each miner's familiarity with escapeways is 
important, one commenter stated that requiring travel by foot in the 
escapeways could cause undue physical stress to some miners in low or 
steeply pitching seams. The commenter continued that the desired result 
could be obtained by requiring full participation in drills where 
transportation is provided and full participation in drills where 
transportation is not provided, unless that escapeway is equipped with 
a continuous, directional life line. MSHA notes that the standard does 
not require travel on foot. Transportation may be used for escapeway 
drills provided that the purpose of the standard can be achieved. That 
purpose is to assure that miners are familiar with the escapeway routes 
and, as specified in (b)(4), before or during practice escapeway 
drills, miners shall be informed of the locations of fire doors, check 
curtains, changes in the routes of travel, and plans for diverting 
smoke from escapeways. Traveling an escapeway in a completely enclosed 
mantrip, such that the route could not be observed, would not meet the 
requirement. As to the concept of exempting drills in the alternate 
escapeway where mechanized transportation is unavailable if a 
directional lifeline exists, MSHA believes that certain minimum 
specifications for lifelines would be needed before such a compliance 
alternative could be considered. This would expand the scope of this 
rulemaking beyond the proposal.
    One commenter suggested an expansion of 75.383 to require: 
directional life lines in both escapeways; communications in both 
escapeways; numbering of all stoppings along escapeways; additional 
SCSR caches; hard hat stickers depicting escapeways and SCSR donning 
procedures; and other measures. While many of the suggestions may have 
merit, they are outside the scope of this rulemaking.
    In the proposal, MSHA solicited comments on a concept to allow 
individual miners to opt out of escapeway drills for health reasons. 
One commenter indicated that a number of additional requirements would 
be needed to assure that any miners opting out would still remain 
familiar with the escapeways. After considering the comments received, 
MSHA has not included an option for miners to opt out of the escapeway 
drills. As one commenter pointed out, it is essential that each miner 
be familiar with the escapeways. MSHA concludes that a number of 
accommodations can be made to provide assistance to any miner 
experiencing difficulty during drills. As discussed above, mobile 
equipment may be used provided that the conveyance is not so enclosed 
that miners cannot observe the route. Operators can allow additional 
time for miners who may encounter difficulty. Also, assistance can be 
provided by other miners, particularly in difficult areas such as 
unusually steep grades. Such assistance would likely also be needed in 
an actual emergency and therefore the drills would be particularly 
instructive to all the miners participating in the drills.
    MSHA believes that for areas where mechanized mining equipment is 
being installed or removed, providing escapeways and posting maps 
identifying these escapeways and conducting the drills specified in the 
standard are essential to maintain safety. These requirements help to 
assure that miners are familiar with escape routes so that should 
urgent escape become necessary, they can reach the surface as quickly 
as possible.

Section 75.384 Longwall and Shortwall Travelways

    Modern mining methods include removing large blocks of coal in one 
continuous operation along a wall which can be several hundred feet 
long. This method is known as longwall or shortwall mining. To avoid 
trapping miners in the face area without a means of escape in the event 
of an emergency, there is a need to have a travelway on the side of the 
block of coal opposite the escapeways. Section 75.384 addresses the 
requirements for a travelway on the tailgate side of a longwall or 
shortwall, the location and marking of the travelway, and procedures to 
follow during a blockage of the travelway.
    MSHA proposed no changes to the existing rule. Likewise, the final 
rule makes no changes to the existing rule. The preamble to the 
proposal explained that MSHA had received comment suggesting that the 
existing rule be modified to provide for additional involvement by 
miners when a roof fall or other blockage occurs that prevents travel 
in the tailgate travelway. MSHA believes that the existing procedures 
and regulations appropriately address the hazards and provide a 
sufficient opportunity for input and involvement for all interested 
parties. The preamble to the proposal contains a discussion of the 
existing procedures and regulations.
    One commenter recommended several additions to existing Sec. 75.384 
while 

[[Page 9822]]
agreeing that maintenance of a tailgate travelway is essential. The 
recommendations included requiring the tailgate travelway to be 
ventilated by intake air. The commenter noted that several mines 
presently ventilate in this manner, providing intake air splits at both 
headgate and tailgate. While this system has certain advantages, it is 
not feasible or practical in all cases.

Section 75.388 Boreholes in Advance of Mining.

    Areas of a mine, or of an adjacent mine, can be located in close 
proximity to an advancing working place but can be inaccessible for a 
variety of reasons. These inaccessible areas of a mine can present 
hazards when mining proceeds inadvertently or improperly into these 
areas. Inaccessible areas may contain potentially dangerous 
accumulations of gases or water, which could result in explosions or 
inundations. To protect against these hazards, Sec. 75.388 requires 
operators to drill boreholes into the coal before they extract it. In 
this manner, the operator can determine whether mining, if continued, 
will penetrate an area where unknown hazards may be present. Boreholes 
are not required when the area toward which mining is advancing is 
accessible and is properly examined.
    The final rule revises requirements for the drilling of boreholes 
in advance of mining. It requires boreholes to be drilled in both ribs 
of advancing working places unless an alternative drilling plan is 
approved by the district manager in accordance with existing paragraph 
(g) of this section. Existing paragraph (c) requires that boreholes be 
drilled in at least one rib of advancing working places described in 
Sec. 75.388 (a). Although MSHA did not intend any change in 
promulgating the existing language, comments indicated that some 
confusion existed. To address this issue, MSHA proposed to revise the 
existing standard and adopt language similar to the regulation which 
was in effect prior to 1992. The proposed revisions to Sec. 75.388 (c) 
would have required bore holes to be drilled in one or both ribs of 
advancing working places described in Sec. 75.388(a), `` . . . as may 
be necessary for adequate protection of miners in such working 
places.''
    Several comments were received in response to the proposal. One 
commenter indicated that the proposed revision was unnecessary since 
the 1992 standard adequately indicated that more than one rib may need 
to be drilled. Another commenter stated that drilling one rib is always 
adequate since required drilling in adjacent places will assure that 
the entire area is explored by drilling. MSHA's experience is that 
working places are seldom developed at the same rate and some may lag 
by significant distances. In addition, entry or room centers are 
ordinarily in excess of the 20 foot drill hole depth specified in the 
standard. Thus, coverage over the entire width of the advancing section 
is not always provided as suggested by the commenter. Another example 
would be where an advance heading approaches an inaccurately mapped 
abandoned mine such that the unknown workings are approached near the 
undrilled ribline. An inundation could occur at the undrilled ribline 
as the working place advanced. To address these hazards, the final rule 
requires drilling of both ribs. If the workings were not discovered 
through drilling, multiple fatalities could result from inundations of 
water, methane, or oxygen deficient atmosphere (black damp). Accidents 
similar to this scenario have occurred and resulted in inundations of 
water, methane, or irrespirable atmospheres.
    One commenter noted that 38 inundations of gases or water occurred 
between 1990 and 1994. MSHA notes that this number represents only 
those accidental cut-throughs which resulted in inundations. It should 
be noted that numerous additional accidental cut-throughs have occurred 
which did not result in inundations. Each of these additional 
accidental cut-throughs demonstrates the potential for a serious or 
fatal accident. The commenter stated that the number of inundations and 
the potential for multiple fatalities warrant a revision to the 
standard to require both ribs to be drilled. Similar comments and 
examples were heard during the public hearings. MSHA agrees.
    MSHA concludes that in general, both ribs should be drilled; 
however, under some circumstances drilling of both ribs may be 
unnecessary. Moreover, MSHA recognizes that there are circumstances 
where it would be unnecessary to drill both ribs at all times. Thus, 
the final rule requires that both ribs be drilled unless the district 
manager grants approval for an alternative drilling pattern under 
existing paragraph (g). Under existing paragraph (g), an alternative 
drilling pattern may be approved which may not require drilling of both 
ribs. As with other plans which are subject to approval, requests for 
alternative drilling patterns will be reviewed on a case by case basis. 
After considering all comments received discussing this issue, MSHA has 
concluded that the hazard of an inundation is properly addressed by the 
final rule which retains sufficient flexibility for a site specific 
drilling pattern if the district manager can be satisfied that the 
alternative is suitable to the particular circumstances.
    Another comment suggested that the minimum distances which trigger 
drilling as specified in Sec. 75.388 (a)(1), (a)(2), and (a)(3) be 
revised to 100, 500, and 500 feet, respectively. In support of the 
suggestion, the commenter noted factors such as inaccurate old mine 
maps, unmapped mining over-boundary or outside the legal limits, lost 
maps or unknown mines, and less than diligent research by some 
operators. The minimum drilling distances in paragraph (a) were not 
proposed for revision and the final rule does not address them. 
However, it is important to note that the distances specified are the 
minimum at which drilling must begin if there is reasonable confidence 
in the position of the old workings. The distances specified provide a 
safety factor to account for slight mining overruns, mapping errors, 
small deliberate omissions, and similar factors in cases where the 
position of the old workings are known with reasonable certainty. In 
cases where old workings are known to exist but the position is unknown 
or known with little confidence, drilling would be necessary in excess 
of the minimum distances specified in (a) to assure compliance with the 
standard.

Section 75.389 Mining into Inaccessible Areas

    While Sec. 75.388 addresses the need to identify inaccessible areas 
to avoid accidentally drilling into an area containing a possible 
hazardous environment, Sec. 75.389 establishes procedures for drilling 
into an inaccessible area that has been identified. Section 75.389 
requires a separate plan be developed and approved for drilling into 
inaccessible areas. Paragraph (c) of the final rule clarifies that the 
requirements of Sec. 75.389(c)(1), (c)(2) and (c)(3) do not apply to 
routine mining-through operations that are part of a retreat section 
ventilation system approved in accordance with Sec. 75.371(f) and (x). 
The final rule retains the proposed language.
    The preamble to the proposal pointed out that, based on comments 
received during informational meetings and other discussions, differing 
interpretations of the application of existing Sec. 75.389 existed. 
Some persons were interpreting paragraph (c) as requiring, for example, 
the mine to be evacuated during the break-through of a pillar split in 
a retreating section. However, paragraphs (a) through (c) of 
Sec. 75.389 were intended to apply during mining-through operations in 
areas subject to Sec. 75.388 

[[Page 9823]]
where hazards and potential hazards may be unknown. The final rule 
revises existing Sec. 75.389(c) by adding an exception for routine 
mining-through operations that are a part of a retreat mining system 
approved in the mine ventilation plan. In some circumstances, the 
mining through occurs during routine mining into an area which is 
covered by an approved mine ventilation plan. In this case, the 
potential hazards have already been addressed in the mine ventilation 
plan. Requiring the operator to submit duplicate plans would not result 
in any safety benefit; therefore, the level of safety provided by the 
existing standard is maintained.

Petitions for Modification

    Operators with petitions for modification that involve the 
standards revised in this rulemaking need to determine the status of 
those petitions before the effective date of the rule. If there are 
sections of this rule that are renumbered but remain substantively 
unchanged from the existing standards, operators with modifications 
granted for these standards need not reapply. However, operators with 
petitions for modifications granted for standards that have been 
revised must comply with the new rule on its effective date. New 
petitions for modification of the final rule may be submitted under 30 
CFR part 44. If Agency assistance is needed, questions should be 
directed to the appropriate MSHA district office.

Redesignation Table

    The following redesignation table lists the section number of the 
existing standard and the section number of the final standard which 
contain revised provisions derived from the corresponding existing 
section.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                   Old section                                              New section                         
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
75.310(a)(3)....................................  75.310(a)(3).                                                 
75.310(a)(4)....................................  75.310(a)(4).                                                 
75.310(c).......................................  75.310(c).                                                    
75.310(c).......................................  75.310(c)(1).                                                 
75.310(c).......................................  75.310(c)(2).                                                 
75.310(c).......................................  75.310(c)(4).                                                 
75.310(c)(1)....................................  75.310(c)(4)(i).                                              
75.310(c)(2)....................................  75.310(c)(4)(ii).                                             
75.311(d).......................................  75.311(d).                                                    
75.312(a).......................................  75.312(a).                                                    
75.312(b)(1)....................................  75.312(b)(1), 75.312(b)(1)(ii).                              

75.312(b)(1)(i).................................  75.312(b)(1)(ii)(A).                                          
75.312(b)(1)(ii)................................  75.312(b)(1)(ii)(B).                                          
75.312(c).......................................  75.312(c).                                                    
75.312(d).......................................  75.312(d).                                                    
75.312(f).......................................  75.312(f)(1).                                                 
75.312(g)(1)....................................  75.312(g)(1).                                                 
75.312(g)(3)....................................  75.312(g)(3).                                                 
75.312(h).......................................  75.312(h).                                                    
75.313(c)(2)....................................  75.313(c)(2).                                                 
75.313(c)(3)....................................  75.313(c)(3).                                                 
75.313(d)(1)(i).................................  75.313(d)(1)(i).                                              
75.313(d)(1)(ii)................................  75.313(d)(1)(ii).                                             
75.321(a).......................................  75.321(a)(1).                                                 
75.321(a).......................................  75.321(a)(2).                                                 
75.323(b)(1)(ii)................................  75.323(b)(1)(ii).                                             
75.323(c)(1)....................................  75.323(c)(1).                                                 
75.323(d)(2)(i).................................  75.323(d)(2)(i).                                              
75.325(d).......................................  75.325(d).                                                    
75.333(a).......................................  75.333(a).                                                    
75.333(b)(1)....................................  75.333(b)(1).                                                 
75.333(b)(3)....................................  75.333(b)(3).                                                 
75.333(b)(4)....................................  75.333(b)(4).                                                 
75.333(e)(1)....................................  75.333(e)(1)(i).                                              
75.333(e)(1)....................................  75.333(e)(1)(ii).                                             
75.334(e).......................................  75.334(e).                                                    
75.334(f)(3)....................................  75.334(f)(3).                                                 
75.340(a).......................................  75.340(a)                                                     
75.340(a)(1)....................................  75.340(a)(1)(i).                                              
75.340(a)(2)....................................  75.340(a)(1)(ii).                                             
75.340(a)(3)....................................  75.340(a)(1)(iii).                                            
75.340(a)(3)(i).................................  75.340(a)(1)(iii)(A).                                         
75.340(a)(3)(ii)................................  75.340(a)(1)(iii)(B).                                         
75.340(a).......................................  75.340(a)(2).                                                 
75.340(a)(1)....................................  75.340(a)(2)(i).                                              
75.340(a)(2)....................................  75.340(a)(2)(ii).                                             
75.342(a)(4)....................................  75.342(a)(4).                                                 
75.344(a).......................................  75.344(a).                                                    
75.344(a)(1)....................................  75.344(a)(2).                                                 
75.344(a)(2)....................................  75.344(b).                                                    
75.344(b)(1)....................................  75.344(a)(1).                                                 
75.344(b)(2)....................................  75.344(a)(2).                                                 
75.344(b)(2)(i).................................  75.344(a)(2)(i).                                              

[[Page 9826]]

75.344(b)(2)(ii)................................  75.344(a)(2)(ii).                                             
75.360(a).......................................  75.360(a)(1).                                                 
75.360(b).......................................  75.360(b).                                                    
75.360(b)(1)....................................  75.360(b)(1).                                                 
75.360(b)(3)....................................  75.360(b)(3).                                                 
75.360(b)(4)....................................  75.350(b)(4).                                                 
75.360(b)(6)....................................  75.360(b)(6)(i).                                              
75.360(b)(6)....................................  75.360(b)(6)(ii).                                             
75.360(c).......................................  75.360(c).                                                    
75.360(c)(1)....................................  75.360(c)(1).                                                 
75.360(c)(3.....................................  75.360(c)(3).                                                 
75.360(e).......................................  75.363.                                                       
75.360(f).......................................  75.360(e).                                                    
75.360(g).......................................  75.360(f).                                                    
75.360(h).......................................  75.360(g).                                                    
75.362(a)(1)....................................  75.362(a)(1).                                                 
75.363(a)(2)....................................  75.363.                                                       
75.362(c)(1)....................................  75.362(c)(1).                                                 
75.362(d)(1)(i).................................  75.362(d)(1)(ii).                                             
75.362(d)(1)(ii)................................  75.362(d)(1)(iii).                                            
75.362(d)(2)....................................  75.362(d)(2).                                                 
75.362(g).......................................  75.363.                                                       
75.362(h).......................................  75.363.                                                       
75.364(a)(1)....................................  75.364(a)(1).                                                 
75.364(a)(2)(i).................................  75.364(a)(2)(i).                                              
75.364(a)(2)(ii)................................  75.364(a)(2)(ii).                                             
75.364(a)(2)(iii)...............................  75.364(a)(2)(iii).                                            
75.364(h).......................................  75.364(h).                                                    
75.364(i).......................................  75.364(i).                                                    
75.370(a)(3)....................................  75.370(a)(3).                                                 
75.370(a)(3)....................................  75.370(a)(3)(ii).                                             
75.370(a)(3)....................................  75.370(a)(3)(iii).                                            
75.370(b)(1)....................................  75.370(c)(1).                                                 
75.370(b)(2)....................................  75.370(c)(2).                                                 
75.370(e).......................................  75.370(f).                                                    
75.370(e).......................................  75.370(f)(2).                                                 
75.370(e).......................................  75.370(f)(3).                                                 
75.371(r).......................................  75.371(r).                                                    
75.371(s).......................................  75.371(s).                                                    
75.371(z).......................................  75.371(z).                                                    
75.371(bb)......................................  75.371(bb).                                                   
75.371(cc)......................................  75.371(cc).                                                   
75.372(b)(3)....................................  75.372(b)(3).                                                 
75.380(d)(3)....................................  75.380(d)(3).                                                 
75.380(d)(4)(ii)................................  75.380(d)(4)(ii).                                             
75.380(d)(5)....................................  75.380(d)(5).                                                 
75.380(f).......................................  75.380(f).                                                    
75.380(i)(2)....................................  75.380(i)(2).                                                 
75.383(a).......................................  75.383(a).                                                    
75.388(c).......................................  75.388(c).                                                    
75.389(c)(1)....................................  75.389(c)(1).                                                 
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------



III. Paperwork Reduction Act

    The information collection requirements contained in this rule have 
been submitted to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review 
under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501-3520), as 
implemented by OMB in regulations at 5 CFR part 1320. No person may be 
required to respond to, or may be subjected to a penalty for failure to 
comply with, these information collection requirements until they have 
been approved and MSHA has announced the assigned OMB control number. 
The OMB control number, when assigned, will be announced by separate 
notice in the Federal Register. In accordance with Sec. 1320.11(h) of 
the implementing regulations, OMB has 60 days from today's publication 
date in which to approve, disapprove, or instruct MSHA to make a change 
to the information collection requirements in this rule.
    This final rule addresses comments submitted to OMB and MSHA on the 
collection of information requirements in the proposed rule. In 
revising the requirements from those that appeared in the proposed 
rule, MSHA has evaluated the necessity and usefulness of the 
collections of information; reevaluated MSHA's estimate of the 
information collection burden, including the validity of the underlying 
methodology and assumptions; and minimized the burden on respondents 
for the information collection requirements, to the extent possible. 
This final rule provides for the use of electronic storage and 
maintenance of records.

Benefits

    In assessing costs and benefits of the ventilation rule, it is 
important to note that ventilation of underground coal mines is the 
primary method of preventing the accumulation of explosive methane gas, 
controlling harmful respirable dust, and assuring the quality of air 
miners breath. Because 

[[Page 9827]]
of the potential for a large number of fatalities resulting from 
ventilation problems, MSHA has found it prudent to establish multiple 
safety factors and safety work practices to better assure adequate 
protection for miners. It is extremely difficult to specifically 
quantify safety benefits related to each safety factor. However, due to 
the close, confined nature of the workplace in an underground coal 
mine, failure of any safety factors or protective actions related to 
ventilation can have disastrous effects. The introduction of this rule 
lists some of those tragic mine accidents. In the restricted work 
environment of an underground coal mine, failure of a single safety 
factor or noncompliance with a safe work practice could jeopardize the 
well-being of all miners underground. The total effect of the 
provisions in this final rule in conjunction with MSHA's existing 
ventilation standards should decrease the occurrence of fatalities, 
injuries, accidents, and illnesses in underground coal mines.
    With respect to this final rule, the Agency has identified nine 
fatalities and seven injuries which potentially could have been 
prevented by compliance with these provisions. In addition, the final 
rule contains provisions to better assure compliance with the 
respirable dust control parameters specified in the mine ventilation 
plan. Adherence to these parameters helps to maintain a work 
environment free of excessive levels of respirable dust, thereby 
improving long-term health protection for miners and potentially 
reducing the number of miners afflicted with coal workers' 
pneumoconiosis.
    Some provisions clarify the intent of the existing rule. Such 
clarifications should increase the likelihood of compliance and thereby 
will help to increase the probability of preventing a fatality, injury, 
or non-injury accident. For the provisions which offer an alternative 
compliance option, the miners will be provided at least the same level 
of safety provided by an existing requirement. These provisions will 
facilitate compliance by the operator, thereby increasing the potential 
for the rule to reduce the probability of a ventilation-related 
explosion or accident.
    In conclusion, the Agency determined that these provisions will 
increase the probability that compliance with the ventilation rule will 
prevent future ventilation-related accidents and generate a safer 
mining environment.

Compliance Costs and Economic Impact

    MSHA has compared the costs associated with the existing 
requirements with the costs of the new requirements. Based upon the 
available data, MSHA estimates that compliance with the rule will 
produce net total per year costs of approximately $4.0 million for the 
mining industry. This $4.0 million is composed of approximately $0.6 
million in net annualized costs (derived from $4.0 million one-time 
costs) and approximately $3.4 million net annual recurring costs.
    With respect to large underground coal mines the net total per year 
costs will be approximately $3.0 million. This $3.0 million is composed 
of approximately $0.46 million in net annualized costs (derived from 
$3.0 million one-time costs) and approximately $2.54 million net annual 
recurring costs.
    With respect to small underground coal mines the net total per year 
costs will be approximately $1.0 million. This $1.0 million is composed 
of approximately $0.14 million in net annualized costs (derived from 
$1.0 million one-time costs) and approximately $0.82 million net annual 
recurring costs.
    Executive Order 12866 requires that regulatory agencies assess the 
impact to the government for any regulation determined to be a 
significant regulatory action. MSHA does not believe that this rule 
will create any significant cost impacts to the government. The 
regulation can be implemented under existing government practices 
without any substantial equipment or facility expenditures by the 
government.
    The incremental compliance costs for all underground coal mines are 
listed by provision in Table I.

  Table IV-1.--Compliance Costs to Comply With the Ventilation Rule for 
                       all Underground Coal Mines                       
                        [In thousands of dollars]                       
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                           First                        
                Standard                    year   Annualized    Annual 
                                           costs      costs      costs  
------------------------------------------------------------------------
75.301..................................    (100)        (7)        (20)
75.310..................................     329         47         (70)
75.311..................................  .......  ..........  .........
75.312..................................  .......  ..........    (1,121)
75.313..................................  .......  ..........       322 
75.320..................................  .......  ..........  .........
75.321..................................     250         35          40 
75.323..................................  .......  ..........  .........
75.330..................................  .......  ..........  .........
75.333..................................  .......  ..........  .........
75.334..................................  .......  ..........  .........
75.340..................................      63          9             
75.342..................................      12          2          38 
75.344..................................      57         10       1,256 
75.360..................................     123         17      (1,556)
75.362..................................     420         59       3,275 
75.363..................................  .......  ..........       321 
75.364..................................  .......  ..........       682 
75.370..................................  .......  ..........        67 
75.371..................................  .......  ..........        13 
75.372..................................  .......  ..........  .........
75.380..................................   2,839        436          51 
75.382..................................  .......  ..........        13 
75.388..................................  .......  ..........        53 

[[Page 9828]]

75.389..................................                                
                                         -------------------------------
      Total costs.......................   3,993        608       3,364 
------------------------------------------------------------------------



Regulatory Flexibility Certification

    The Regulatory Flexibility Act requires that agencies evaluate and 
include, wherever possible, compliance alternatives that minimize any 
adverse impact on small businesses when developing regulatory 
standards. MSHA has not exempted small mines from any provision of the 
rule and small mines will benefit from some of the provisions and the 
alternative compliance methods.
    MSHA determined that these revisions will not generate a 
substantial cost increase for small mines. The lack of a substantial 
cost increase for small mines, in conjunction with the fact that 
similar hazards exist in both large and small mining operations, 
indicates that regulatory relief is not warranted for small mining 
operations. Therefore, MSHA has determined that these provisions will 
not have a significantly adverse impact upon a substantial number of 
small entities.
    The incremental costs for small and large mines are listed by 
provision in Table II.

  Table IV-2.--Compliance Costs to Comply With the Ventilation Rule for Small and Large
Underground Coal Mines  
                                            [In thousands of dollars]                                           
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                        First year costs          Annualized costs            Annual costs      
             Standard              -----------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                       Small        Large        Small        Large        Small        Large   
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
75.301............................                     (100)                       (7)                      (20)
75.310............................          273          56            39           8          (78)           8 
75.311............................                                                                              
75.312............................                                                                       (1,121)
75.313............................                                                              55          267 
75.320............................                                                                              
75.321............................                      250                        35                        40 
75.323............................                                                                              
75.330............................                                                                              
75.333............................                                                                              
75.334............................                                                                              
75.340............................            4          59             1           8                           
75.342............................            6           6             1           1           18           20 
75.344............................                       57                        10           43        1,213 
75.360............................           37          86             5          12          100       (1,656)
75.362............................           80         340            11          48          409        2,866 
75.363............................                                                              98          223 
75.364............................                                                             126          556 
75.370............................                                                              12           55 
75.371............................                                                               6            7 
75.372............................                                                                              
75.380............................          585       2,254            89         347            6           45 
75.382............................                                                                           13 
75.388............................                                                              25           28 
75.389............................                                                                              
                                   -----------------------------------------------------------------------------
      Total.......................          985       3,008           146         462          820        2,544 
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------