Petition - Docket No. M-98-05-M


ON Potash, Inc.




On August 14, 1998, Mississippi Potash, Inc., filed a petition for modification of a mandatory safety standard pursuant to section lOl(c) of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977, seeking a modification of the application of 30 CFR 57.11050 to its Mississippi Potash West Mine (1.D. No. 29-00175), located in Eddy County, New Mexico. The petitioner has a refuge chamber located approximately 400 feet from one of two shafts at the mine, which are used as escapeways from the underground areas of the mine. The petitioner proposes that if any of the two designated escapeways were to become inoperative, the refuge chamber would serve as an alternative to that secondary escapeway and miners would not be required to evacuate the mine.

Standard 57.11050 Escapeways and Refuges, provides in part:

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.

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



This alternative would not provide miners the same level of protection they are afforded under 30 CFR 57.11050. The petitioner's proposed use of a refuge chamber as an alternative to a second escapeway, would cause miners to delay their exit out of the mine, and could result in miners becoming fatally entrapped, if the other des9gnated escapeway were to become unavailable or blocked. Many emergencies associated with underground mine disasters, fires, inundations, and massive ground falls, have occurred where no potential was previously thought to exist. A prompt exit out of a mine has been the most critical factor to the saving of lives of miners in many of those situations.

Therefore, the petitioner has not offered an alternative method of compliance that provides the same level of protection to the miners.


Wherefore, pursuant to the authority delegated by the Secretary of Labor to the Administrator for Metal and Nonmetal and pursuant to Section lOl(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 Mississippi Potash West Mine as it pertains to using a refuse chamber in lieu of a secondary escapeway 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 for Metal and Nonmetal Mine Safety and Health, 4015 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, Virginia 22203.

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 Is/ C.N.Nanamore

Edward C. Hugler
Administrator for Metal and Nonmetal Mine Safety and Health