Petition - Docket No. M-97-12-M

December 11, 1998


ON American Salt Company PETITION FOR MODIFICATION No. M-97-12-M


On October 7, 1997, a petition was filed by North American Salt Company seeking a modification of the application of 30 CFR § 57.22603 to petitioner's Cote Blanche Mine (1.D. No. 16-00358) located near Lydia, St. Mary County, Louisiana.

Standard 57.22603, Blasting from the surface (II-A Mines), provides, in part:

(a) All development, production, and bench rounds shall be initiated from the surface after all persons are out of the mine. Persons shall not enter the mine until the mine has been ventilated for at least 15 minutes and the ventilating air has passed over the blast area and through at least one atmospheric monitoring sensor.

The petitioner proposes that the blasting of the shaft segment be considered "secondary blasting" and that secondary blasting can be done safely while workers are underground. The petitioner states that traditional and historically acceptable examples of "secondary blasting" have included blasting of scales, "trim" shots of bins and other utility blasts.

MSHA investigators conducted an investigation relevant to the merits of the petition and filed a report of their findings with the Administrator for Metal and Nonmetal Mine Safety and Health. After a careful review of the entire record, including the petition and investigative report, this Proposed Decision and Order is issued.


Section lOl(c) of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977, 30 U.S.C. states in part:

Upon petition by the operator or the representative of the miners, the Secretary may modify the application of any mandatory safety standard to a coal or other mine if the Secretary determines that an alternative method of achieving the result of such standard exists which will at all times guarantee no less than the same measure of protection afforded the miners of such mine by such standard, or that the application of such a standard to such mine will result in a diminution of safety to the miners in such mine.

A review of the operator's petition for modification of 30 CFR § 57.22603, makes it apparent that North American Salt Company has not proposed an alternative method of compliance which at all times guarantees the miners no less than the same level of protection afforded by compliance with the mandatory standard. In addition, the operator is not claiming that compliance with 30 CFR § 57.22603 at its Cote Blanche Mine, will result in a diminution of safety to the miners. The petitioner is alleging that it's method of blasting for shaft development should be considered as "secondary blasting" and therefore is not prohibited by 30 CFR § 57.22603, when miners are underground. Even if the Administrator did agree with North American Salt's premise (which the Administrator in fact, strongly opposes), the petition should be denied. This is because the petitioner is clearly seeking an interpretation of the mandatory standard and not a modification of the standard, pursuant to statutory bases set forth in Section lOl(c) of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977.


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 57.22603 to the Cote Blanche Mine as it pertains to using explosives for limited blasting while miners are underground, is hereby DENIED.

Any party to this action desiringahearing IDll8t file arequeet forhearing within 30 days of1hePropoted Dedaion and Order,inaccordancewith 30 CFR §44.14, withthe Admini•b:ator for Metal and Nonmetal Mine Safety auiHealtb, 401SWtbon Bov.levard, Arlinaton. Vll'ginia 22203. Unless ateqlleStfor a hearing of drls Propoeed DecisionmdOrder isfiledwith the.Administrator for Metal and Nonmetal Mine Safety and Health within 30 days. this Proposed Decision 8IUi Order will become final.

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.


For /al Edward E. Lopez

Edward C.Hugler

Administrator for Metal.

and Nonmetal Mme Safety/ and Health