MSHA launches 'inspection blitz' of 57 coal mines nationwide
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The 57 mines were selected for inspection based on their history of significant and/or repeat MSHA violations regarding problems with ventilation, methane buildup and rock dusting. Though the cause of the fatal explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia is still being investigated, early guesses point to a combination of a buildup of dangerous concentration of methane gas and highly explosive coal dust. If a mine is properly ventilated -- and if non-combustible rock dust is spread over exposed coal face walls, lowering the amount of coal dust in the air -- the risk of explosions should be held to a minimum.
“The purpose of these inspections is to provide assurance that no imminent dangers, explosions, hazards or other serious health or safety conditions and practices are present at these mines,” Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health Joseph A. Main said in a statement moments ago. “Just last week, we pledged to the president that we will do whatever it takes to make sure another tragedy like the one that claimed 29 miners’ lives at Upper Big Branch never happens again.”
Following the West Virginia explosion, Main instructed all district managers overseeing the nation’s coal mines to focus increased attention on mine ventilation, rock dusting, methane monitoring and mine examinations during all ongoing regular inspections.
As many as 10 inspectors descended on each of the 57 mines during the inspection. More than 275 MSHA employees participated.
The targeted mines are in 10 states, with West Virginia leading the list with 23 mines. Kentucky has 14, and no other state has more than four mines.
The Upper Big Branch mine is owned by Performance Coal, a subsidiary of Massey Energy, run by outspoken chief executive Don Blankenship, who has blasted mine inspections in recent years and contested a number of violations. At least nine of the mines on the list of 57 are owned by Massey.
MSHA said it will release the results of the inspections as soon as they become available.
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April 21, 2010; 2:51 PM ET
| Tags: Coal mining, Don Blankenship, Massey Energy, Methane, Mine Safety and Health Administration, United States, Upper Big Branch, West Virginia
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