MSHA Posts Belt Air Panel's Documents

The heated topic of belt air in underground coal mining is again dividing mine operators and labor, and yet another technical panel is studying the issues. MSHA this week created a single source page on its  Web site to house documents from the panel's January 2007 initial meeting and the second meeting, which took place March 28-30 in Coraopolis, Pa.

The panel was created by the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act of 2006 (the MINER Act) to provide an independent scientific review of belt air, which is a method of providing breathing air to underground miners in the same passages through which coal moves on conveyor belts to the surface. The UMW opposes belt air and has fought it for years; belt air was the focus of the investigation into a Jan. 19, 2006, fire in a Logan County, W.Va., coal mine for which MSHA filed a record $1.5 million in penalties on March 29 against the mine operators.

The Technical Study Panel on the Utilization of Belt Air and the Composition and Fire Retardant Properties of Belt Materials in Underground Coal Mining has been directed to submit a report by Dec. 20, 2007 to the secretary of Labor, the secretary of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Senate Committee on Health Education, Labor and Pensions, and the U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor. The panel's chairman is Dr. Jan M. Mutmansky, professor emeritus of Mining Engineering at Penn State.

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