The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) announced that federal inspectors issued 149 citations and 16 orders during special impact inspections conducted at nine coal mines and four metal/nonmetal mines last month.
The monthly inspections, which began in force in April 2010, involve mines that merit increased agency attention and enforcement due to their poor compliance history or particular compliance concerns. These matters include: high numbers of violations or closure orders; frequent hazard complaints or hotline calls; plan compliance issues; inadequate workplace examinations; a high number of accidents, injuries or illnesses; fatalities; adverse conditions, such as increased methane liberation, faulty roof conditions and inadequate ventilation; and respirable dust.
Riverstone Group’s Troy Grove Stone Quarry in Illinois was one of the targeted operations, however MSHA inspectors issued no citations during their inspection.
One impact inspection conducted at Affinity Coal Co. LLC’s Affinity Mine in Raleigh County, W.Va., resulted in 13 citations, 10 unwarrantable failure orders and one imminent danger order. MSHA inspectors secured communications from the surface to prevent the possibility of advance notice.
The imminent danger order was issued when a foreman was seen riding as a passenger in the bucket of a rubber-tired scoop in a wet, rough and uneven entry. Riding in the bucket violated a safeguard MSHA issued on Sept. 17, 2012. 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.
“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 type of conditions found by inspectors during this surprise inspection are the type that can expose miners to methane and coal dust explosions and black lung, and cannot be tolerated in the mining industry.”
Since April 2010, MSHA has conducted 642 impact inspections and issued 10,789 citations, 996 orders and 45 safeguards.