Petition - Docket No. M-97-016-C

Inthe matter of
Cyprus Cumberland Resources Corp.
Cumberland Mine
l.D. No. 3605018
Petition for Modification
Docket No. M-97-016-C


On February 3,1997, a petition was filed seeking a modification of the application of 30 CFR 75.312(c)&(d) to Petitioner's Cumberland Mine, located in Green County, Pennsylvania. The Petitioner alleges that the proposed alternative method will at all times provide the same measure of protection as the standard.

MSHA personnel conducted an investigation of the petition and filed a report of their fmdings and recommendations with the Administrator for Coal Mine Safety and Health. After a careful review of the entire record, including the petition and MSHA's investigative report and recommendation, this Proposed Decision and Order is issued.

Finding of Fact and Conclusion of Law

Petitioner seeks modification of 30 CFR 75.312(c)&(d) as it relates to the removal of miners from underground when fans are being tested. The intent of 75.312 is to not allow miners, other than persons necessary to evaluate the effect of the fan stoppage or restart, or to perform maintenaance or repair work that cannot otherwise be made while the fan is operating, to be permitted underground during such test. Not withstanding the requirement of 75.311(b)(3), underground power may remain energized during the test, provided no one, including persons identified in 75.31l(b)(l), is underground. Testing, as required by 75.312(c)&(d), is to take place at least every 31 days. Ifa problem is found as a result of the test and the fan is not restarted within 15 minutes, then it becomes necessary to remove power from the mine. Upon restarting of the fan, the mine must be examined as required by 75.360(b) through (e), and the mine determined to be safe, before anyone enters.

MSHA's investigation revealed that the Cumberland Mine is a very large and complex mine with a multiple ventilation fan arrangement. The mine liberates several million cubic feet of methane in a 24 hour period. The ventilation system of the mine is the only means to remove the methane liberation. The stopping of a fan with miners underground subjects the miners to immediate methane build-up and possible air reversals. Cyprus Cumberland Resources presented no evidence to the investigators concerning air flow or methane control during fan(s) stoppage while performing tests required by 75.312(c)&(d). Moreover, Cyprus Cumberland Resources Corp. presented no assurance that miners in the mine would be notified should a fan fail to restart during an on shift test, and if notified, that it would not take a lengthy period of time to be removed from the mine to the outside. The investigation revealed that the mine has in the past experienced restarting problems with the fan(s) after intentionally shutting the fan(s) down.

MSHA concludes that the proposed alternative, if implemented, would not comply with the intent of 30 CFR 75.312(c)&(d),which is to ensure that miners are safe from danger while the fan(s) are being tested. While it is difficult to envision an acceptable alternative to withdrawing miners not involved in the actual testing of the fan, it is the opinion of the agency that, given the methane history of the mine, the lack of information concerning ventilation during fan stoppages and the experienced difficulty in restarting the fans, the alternative method proposed will not provide an equivalent level of protection as the existing standard. The alternative method proposed by the Petitioner will not at all times guarantee no less than the same measure of protection afforded the miners under 30 CFR 75.312(c)&(d).

On the basis of the petition and the findings of MSHA's investigation, Cyprus Cumberland Resources Corp. is not granted a modification of the application of 30 CFR 75.312(c)&(d) to its Cumberland Mine.


Wherefore, pursuant to the authority delegated by the Secretary of Labor to the Administrator for Metal and Nonmetal and pursuant to Section 101§ 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 57.11055 (inclined escapeways) to its Continental Underground Complex as it pertains to using an alternative emergency and escape system out 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, 201 12th Street South, Suite 401, Arlington, VA 22202-5450.

If a hearing is requested, the reqest shall contain a concise summary of position on the issues of fact or law desired to be raised by the party requesting the hearing, inc!uding specific objections to the Proposed Decision and Order. A party other than the petitioner who requested a hearing shall also comment upon all itsues 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.


Robert A. Elam

Deputy Administrator for Coal Mine Safety and Health