December 25, 2007 Petition for Modification St. Lawrence Zinc Company, LLC.
Balmat Mine No.4 & Mill
Mine I.D. No. 30-01185 Docket No. M-2007-010-M
Proposed Decision and Order
On September 18, 2007, St. Lawrence Zinc Company, LLC, filed a petition under 30
U.S.C. § 811 (c) and 30 C.F.R. Part 44 seeking a modification of the application of 30
C.F.R. § 57.11052 (d) to its Balmat Mine No. 4 & Mill (No. 30-01185). The Blamat Mine No. 4 & Mill is an underground zinc mine located in St. Lawrence County, New York. The mine uses exhaust ventilation and entrance to the mine is through shaft No. 2 which also serves as the primary escapeway. The mine presently employees 94 miners and operates on two 10 ½ hour shifts, five days per week. The petitioner alleges that the alternative method outlined in the petition would at all times guarantee no less than the same measure of protection for miners provided by the standard.
Standard 30 C.F.R. § 57.11052(d) requires that refuge areas be provided with compressed air lines, waterlines, suitable handtools, and stopping materials.
The Petitioner requests that it be allowed to provide bottled water in lieu of installing waterlines in its eight refuge chambers. The operator believes that in a mine disaster situation, waterlines, pumps, air lines and electrical systems could fail rendering the waterline unusable. The storage of 50 gallons of potable water in each refuge chamber would assure that miners had an ample supply of potable drinking water at all times. Petitioner also stated that, if granted, the bottled water would be cycled in and out based on the products two year shelf life.
On September 26, 2007, MSHA investigators conducted an investigation relevant to the merits of the petition and filed a report of their findings and recommendations with the Administrator for Metal and Nonmetal Mine Safety and Health. After a careful review of the entire record, including the petition and MSHA's investigative report, this Proposed Decision and Order is issued.
Findings of Fact and Conclusion of Law
Petitioner's proposed alternative method will not at all times provide a safe work environment for miners and guarantee no less than the same measure of protection afforded miners under 30 C.F.R. § 57.11052 (d). MSHA's investigation found bottled water in some refuge chambers that had been tampered with and/or was missing.
Several containers holding necessary tools, first aid equipment, and stopping materials for use in an emergency had been tampered with and items were missing. All refuge chambers had been provided with a system to remove excess carbon dioxide from the air and maintaining oxygen levels. However, the system was not functional and many were missing the required oxygen cylinders. Data or facts were also not supplied by the operator indicating that a mine disaster of this magnitude, to interrupt water, air, and electrical service to underground refuge chambers had occurred or would occur.
Wherefore, pursuant to the authority delegated by the Secretary of Labor to the Administrator, and pursuant to Section 101(c) of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977, 30 U.S.C., § 811(c), it is hereby ordered that a modification of the application of 30 CFR § 57.11052(d) to St. Lawrence Zinc Company, LLC., as it applies to refuge areas at the Balmat Mine No. 4 & Mill, is hereby DENIED.
Any party to this action desiring a hearing must file a request for hearing within 30 days after service of the Proposed Decision and Order, in accordance with 30 C.F.R.
§ 44.14, with the Administrator for Metal and Nonmetal Mine Safety and Health, 1100 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, Virginia 22209-3939. If a hearing is requested, the request shall contain a concise summary of position on the issues of fact or law desired to be raised by the party requesting the hearing, including specific objections to the Proposed Decision and Order. A party other than the petitioner who has requested a hearing shall also comment upon all issues of fact or law presented in the petition. Any party to this action requesting a hearing may indicate a desired hearing site. If no request for a hearing is filed within 30 days after service thereof, this Proposed Decision and Order will become final and must be posted by the operator on the mine bulletin board at the mine.
/s/Felix A. Quintana Felix A. Quintana
Administrator for Metal and Nonmetal Mine Safety and Health