MSHAThe Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) said its inspectors issued 149 citations and 16 orders during special impact inspections conducted at nine coal mines and four metal/nonmetal mines last month.

Riding in a bucket

In one case, a foreman seen riding as a passenger in the bucket of a rubber-tired scoop earned the Affinity Coal Company of Raleigh County, W.Va. an imminent danger warning. A miner riding in the bucket of a scoop can be thrown from the bucket and crushed (there have already been two fatalities involving scoops this year at the Affinity Mine).

The company also earned 13 citations and 10 unwarrantable failure orders.

Five of the unwarrantable failure orders were issued for violations of the mine’s ventilation plan. MSHA measured no ventilation on a section where two miners were operating a roof bolter, and only 150 cubic feet per minute of ventilation on another section where the ventilation plan required 7,800 cfm and the operator was actively mining coal. These conditions have the potential to result in methane and dust accumulations that may result in an explosion or fire, and expose miners to conditions that can lead to black lung. Other similar conditions of airflow significantly below the mine’s ventilation plan requirements were found by MSHA inspectors.

Combustible materials up to 2' deep

The operator also allowed excessive accumulations of combustible materials in the form of dry coal and coal dust ranging from 5 inches to 2 feet deep. Enforcement personnel identified 10 areas where the operator failed to apply rock dust along the mine roof and ribs for up to 80 feet, creating conditions that exposed miners to potential ignition and explosion hazards. The mine was cited for inadequate pre-shift examinations.

In addition, one unwarrantable failure order was issued for a violation of the roof control plan where the operator did not install reflectors to signal the last row of roof supports. Warning signals are required to prevent miners from entering areas where the mine roof is not supported and could collapse on them.

"Unacceptable conditions"

“While many mine operators have improved working conditions at their mines, we continue to see unacceptable conditions at some mines that put lives at risk,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health Joseph A. Main.

The monthly inspections, which began in force in April 2010 following the explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine, involve mines that merit increased agency attention and enforcement due to their poor compliance history or particular compliance concerns. Since April 2010, MSHA has conducted 642 impact inspections and issued 10,789 citations, 996 orders and 45 safeguards.