MSHA issues one citation over fatal accident at CONSOL mine

The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration issued one citation, for failure to maintain its equipment in safe operating condition, to Consolidation Coal over a Jan. 11 accident that killed a miner working at the Buchanan No. 1 longwall mine in Buchanan County, Va.

The MSHA final accident report, issued on Sept. 14, said that Joe Saunders, a 44-year old Utility/Diesel Locomotive Operator, and two other miners were reinstalling a 1½-inch fire hose outlet to the 6-inch fresh water supply pipe. As the miners were working, water pressure built up in the 6-inch fresh water pipe due to the inby 6-inch valve not closing properly. The increase in pressure caused a previously damaged 1½-inch valve on the outlet to fail catastrophically, propelling the steel water outlet into the victim’s face and head. He was hospitalized for seven days in an intensive care unit before he died as a result of his injuries.

Notable is that citations are routinely appealed by coal companies to a federal mine safety commission. MSHA also issued an order that found that firefighting equipment which was in service at the time of the accident was not being maintained in a usable and operable condition.

Consolidation Coal is a unit of CONSOL Energy (NYSE: CNX), and Buchanan No. 1 is a major producer of low-vol coal, mostly for the metallurgical coal market. The mine has 13 shaft openings into the Pocahontas No. 3 seam. The seam averages 72 inches in height. Employment is provided for 694 underground and 65 surface miners working on three production shifts per day, seven days per week at the time of the accident MSHA noted. No shifts are designated as maintenance shifts.

The mine produced at that point an average of 15,000 tons of raw material daily from 10 continuous mining machine units (five “super” sections), and one longwall unit. The mine is developed with 10 active continuous mining machine sections supporting longwall mining. Longwall panels are developed 750 feet wide, by 11,500 feet long. At the time of the accident, mining was ongoing on all 10 active continuous mining machine sections and the longwall. In addition, development had been completed on the #18 right panel off 3 East Mains, and work was being conducted to set up for longwall retreat mining.

MSHA completed the last regular health and safety inspection (E01) of the mine on Dec. 22, 2011. A regular safety and health inspection was commenced on Jan. 3, 2012, and was ongoing at the time of the accident. The Non-Fatal Days Lost (NFDL) injury incidence rate for the mine in 2011 was 0.78, compared to a National NFDL rate of 3.73.

CONSOL said on Sept. 4 that effective that day, it would temporarily idle Buchanan No. 1 and at least a portion of the recently-revived Amonate Mining Complex in southern West Virginia. CONSOL attributed the cutbacks to slumping met coal demand and said that the idlings are expected to last for 30 to 60 days.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.