Boone mine cited for numerous ventilation problems during impact - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Boone mine cited for numerous ventilation problems during impact inspections

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Monthly impact inspections of targeted mines began after a West Virginia mine explosion killed 29 coal miners, but inspectors still regularly find major violations of mine safety laws.

This month, the Fork Creek No. 1 Mine in Boone County was highlighted by the Mine Safety and Health Administration as an example of "unwarrantable failure to comply with health and safety standards." It was the first impact inspection conducted at the mine.

MSHA issued 16 violations, including 13 closure orders focused on ventilation issues.

"In spite of finding overall improvements in compliance since we began conducting impact inspections, examples like Fork Creek No. 1 show what takes place at some mines when MSHA is not expected to be there and illustrates the importance of our impact inspection strategy," said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "The conditions our inspectors observed, which resulted in closure orders, demonstrated a complete disregard for the health and safety of miners and for safe mining practices."

Improper ventilation can pose a threat to miners' safety and can also allow explosive gases to accumulate to dangerous levels.

The evening shift at Fork Creek was caught operating two continuous mining machines on the same split of air, some of the mine's water sprays used to control coal dust were inoperative, and required ventilation curtains were either rolled up or missing.

"One machine cut and loaded rock and coal with the ventilation curtain rolled up for a distance of more than 60 feet, exceeding the allowable curtain setback distance," the MSHA release stated. "Inspectors found another machine cutting and loading more than 50 feet past the last crosscut with the entire line curtain rolled up and tied against the mine roof at distances from 30 to 50 feet in the entry."

The mine also had a roof bolting machine operating in area without ventilation.

"These failures to properly ventilate the mine to control methane and respirable coal dust exposed miners to substantially increased levels of respirable dust that causes black lung disease and the potential for an explosion due to unsafe accumulations of methane and coal dust," MSHA stated.

Other ventilation concerns, including maintenance of haulage paths and accumulations of combustible material, were also cited.

The agency ordered two sections of the mine to shut down until conditions were improved.  Some of the corrective actions taken by the operator took three days to complete in order to terminate the closure orders.

The U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration announced federal inspectors issued 196 citations, 24 orders and three safeguards during special impact inspections conducted at 11 coal mines and three metal/nonmetal mines last month. 

Since April 2010, MSHA has conducted 579 impact inspections and issued 10,036 citations, 946 orders and 43 safeguards.