coal mineDespite the government shutdown. the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) did manage to conduct special impact inspections at nine mines during October that resulted in 120 citations and ten orders being issued.

November found the agency back up to normal operating levels, with a dozen coal mine inspections leading to 174 citations, 11 orders and two safeguards.

A  legacy of UBB

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.

On Nov. 21, MSHA conducted the eighth impact inspection at Maple Coal Co.'s Maple Eagle No. 1 Mine in Fayette County, W.Va. Inspectors traveled belt lines, inspected mobile and stationary equipment, and evaluated section ventilation and roof control. They issued 36 citations and six orders.

A hazardous roof, loose coal rib

During the inspection, enforcement personnel observed a 20-foot crack in the mine roof at a belt feeder where miners regularly travel. Inspectors also found an area of loose roof strata 60 feet long and up to 8 feet wide where miners were at risk of being struck by falling rock. MSHA issued a 104(d)(1) withdrawal order for violating the approved roof control plan and failing to install needed roof supports.

The operator was also cited for a loose coal rib approximately 24 feet long that was cracked and separating from the solid wall. These hazards had the potential to cause catastrophic injuries or fatalities to miners.

Ventilation problems, combustible materials

Maple Eagle No.1 Mine was issued three 104(d)(1) withdrawal orders for violating the approved ventilation plan. The operator did not properly construct or complete several overcasts (enclosed airways used to maintain ventilation) in several entries. The operator also failed to maintain intake airways clear of combustible materials, and had let water accumulate in one of the entries. The mine operator was cited for failing to identify and correct in its preshift inspection hazards that were obvious, extensive and had existed for several shifts.

While monitoring the mine's communication system, MSHA detected and cited the mine operator for providing advance notice.

Since April 2010, MSHA has conducted 687 impact inspections and issued 11,427 citations, 1,052 orders and 48 safeguards.