Petition - Docket No. M-97-11-M

January 14, 1999




ON Mines, Inc.






On October 10, 1997, a petition was filed by ZCA Mines, Inc. seeking a modification of the application of 30 CFR 57.11050 to petitioner's Balmat Mine No. 4 (1.D. No. 30-01185) located in St. Lawrence County, New York. Balmat Mine No. 4 and Mill is an underground lead and zinc mine that uses different mining methods to develop and mine the ore body.


Standard 57.11050 Escapeways and Refuges, provides:


  1. Every mine shall have two or more separate, properly maintained escapeways to the surface from the lowest levels which are so positioned that damage to one shall not lessen the effectiveness of the others. A method of refuge shall be provided while a second opening to the surface is being developed. A second escapeway is reco=ended, but not required, during the exploration or development of an ore body.


  2. In addition to separate escapeways, a method of refuge shall be provided for every employee who cannot reach the surface from his working place through at least two separate escapeways within a time limit of one hour when using the normal exit method. These refuges must be positioned so that the employee can reach one of them within 30 minutes from the time he leaves his workplace.


The petitioner requests a variance to allow the underground employees to report to the refuge chamber when a hoist becomes inoperable for more than one hour instead of evacuating the mine. Ifboth hoists are operational, miners can evacuate to the surface using the hoisting facility at the No. 4 Mine and the No. 2 Mine. The petitioner asserts that reporting to the refuge chambers would not endanger the lives of their employees.


On December 15-17, 1997, MSHA investigators investigated the merits of the petition and filed a report of their findings and reco=endations with the Chief of the Safety Division for Metal and Nonmetal Mines. After a careful review of the entire record, including the petition and investigative report, this Proposed Decision and Order is issued.




Section 57.11050(a) clearly requires every mine to have two or more separate, properly maintained escapeways to the surface from the lowest levels. The alternative method proposed by the petitioner will not at all times guarantee no less than the same measure of protection as afforded miners under 30 CFR 57.11050 in that the refuge chambers would not ensure the miners' safety to the same degree as provided by the standard if there was an underground mine emergency. The petitioner does not give a compelling reason for having personnel in the mine while one mine hoist was inoperable. The petitioner's assertion that the application of the mandatory standard would result in a negative economic impact on the mining operation is not sufficient reason for granting the petition of a mandatory safety standard. Reporting to a refuge chamber would not afford the miners the same degree of safety as evacuating the mine.



Wherefore, pursuant to the authority delegated by the Secretary of Labor to the Administrator for Metal and Nonmetal and pursuant to Section 811(c) of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977, 30 U.S.C., Section 811(c), it is ordered that modification of the application of 30 CFR 57.11050 to the ZCA Mines, Inc, Balmat Mine No. 4 as it pertains to using an alternative emergency and escape system ou of the mine, 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 CFR.44.14, with the Administrator of Metal.and Nonmetal Mine Safety and Health, 4015 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, Vuginia 22203.


Ifaheering isrequested, therequest shall eontain a concise s11mm1ry ofposition onthe issues of fact or law cleeired to be raised by the party reqaegting 1beheering, including specific objections to diePropoeed Decision

and Order.A party other thanthepetitioner whobuR1q11CSted ahearing shall mocommentupon alliMues of

fact orlaw presented in1hepetitiOD. Any party to this action requesting ahearing may indicate a desircclhearing site.If110 request for ahearing is tiledwithin 30 days after servicetbereo 1llia Proposed Decision andOrder will become :finalandlllll8t beposted by die openlor on die mine bulletinboard at themine.


For Isl C.N.Nanamo?e



Edward C.Hugler

Administrator for Metal.

and Nonmetal Mme Safety/ and Health