The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration on May 30 announced that federal inspectors issued 106 citations, 13 orders and one safeguard during special impact inspections conducted at nine coal mines and two metal/nonmetal mines in April.
The monthly inspections, which began in force in April 2010 following the explosion at the Upper Big Branch deep coal mine in West Virginia, involve mines that merit increased agency attention and enforcement due to their poor compliance history or particular compliance concerns.
As an example from April, MSHA said it conducted an impact inspection April 17 at Fork Creek No. 1 Mine of Coal River Mining LLC in Lincoln County, W.Va., covering extensive areas of the mine and issuing four closure orders and 10 citations.
The mine was cited for inadequate examination of one of the conveyer belts where hazardous conditions existed. Inspectors found that top-structure rollers were not immediately removed or repaired on the belt during the examination, MSHA said. Inspectors also found a broken inner support bracket, the canister roller turned on the structure frame, and a groove worn into the frame that was hot to the touch.
Inspectors found 31 locations where belt strings (cords) intertwined with the belt roller and hanger, MSHA added. This creates a potential fire and smoke inhalation hazard.
Notable is that coal operators routinely appeal MSHA citations to a federal mine safety commission, where they are often dismissed or altered.
Among other violations cited, inspectors found that the mine operator failed to follow the MSHA-approved methane/dust control plan for the roof bolter, MSHA said about the Coal River Mining operation.
This was the second impact inspection at Fork Creek No. 1. In February, the mine was issued 16 ventilation violations, 13 of which were closure orders for the operator’s unwarrantable failure to comply with health and safety standards, including serious violations of its ventilation plan.
Other coal mines that got impact inspections in April are controlled by companies like TECO Coal, SunCoke Energy, Corsa Coal and Alpha Natural Resources (NYSE: ANR).
Since April 2010, MSHA has conducted 602 impact inspections and issued 10,297 citations, 961 orders and 44 safeguards.