MSHA’s August impact inspections target Alpha, Patriot mines

The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration said Sept. 25 that its inspectors issued 255 citations, 13 orders and two safeguards during special impact inspections conducted at 11 coal mines and four metal/nonmetal mines in August.

The monthly inspections, which began in force in April 2010 following the explosion at the Upper Big Branch coal mine, involve mines that merit increased agency attention and enforcement due to their poor compliance history or particular compliance concerns, MSHA noted.

As an example from August, an impact inspection was conducted on Aug. 8 at D & C Mining Corp. in Harlan County, Ky. MSHA personnel issued five 104(d)(2) unwarrantable failure orders, one 104(b) withdrawal order and 10 citations, six of which were deemed significant and substantial. The 104(d)(2) orders were issued for an improperly conducted pre-shift examination, an accumulation of combustible materials, a failure to comply with mine emergency evacuation training and drills, a failure on the part of the section foreman and another miner to wear a self-contained self-rescuer device, and a failure by the section foreman to perform the required daily calibration test of multi-gas detectors.

Among the significant and substantial violations were a failure to comply with the roof control plan, an accumulation of combustible materials, damaged areas in the power cord of a battery charger and misaligned conveyer belts, MSHA said. This impact inspection was the D & C mine’s 10th since April 2010, MSHA said. Additionally, the mine received letters from MSHA notifying it of a potential pattern of violation in 2007 and 2008.

Notable is that these kinds of citations are accusations and are routinely appealed by most coal operators to a federal mine safety commission.

Last March, the Labor Department, which oversees MSHA, filed a complaint against D & C Mining in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky, alleging that the company owes $1.67m of $2.7m assessed in civil penalties for 1,244 violations cited between Jan. 24, 2006, and Feb. 8, 2012. After D & C failed to respond to the complaint, the department filed a motion for entry of judgment by default on July 10 along with a proposed judgment, MSHA said. The motion requests: payment of the principal owed, penalties and interest; an order preventing D & C from “violating or failing or refusing to comply with any final orders” by failing to pay already delinquent penalties and future penalties; for D & C to post a bond to ensure the payment of future penalties; and an order that D & C keep all property in which it has an ownership interest on site at the mine and not sell or move the property.

MSHA inspected 11 coal mines under this program in August, with other mines inspected including Patriot Coal’s Federal No. 2 longwall mine in northern West Virginia, the Justice #1 deep mine of Alpha Natural Resources (NYSE: ANR) in southern West Virginia, the No. 1 mine in eastern Kentucky of coal operator Jim Booth’s Matrix Energy LLC and the Bridger longwall mine in Wyoming controlled by a joint venture of Idaho Power and PacifiCorp. That mine feeds captive coal to their jointly-owned Jim Bridger power plant next door.

Since April 2010, MSHA said it has conducted 492 impact inspections and issued 8,800 citations, 865 orders and 38 safeguards.

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.