Report: MSHA Negligent in Approving Crandall Canyon Mine Roof Control Plan

A new report from the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Inspector General (OIG), states that MSHA was negligent in carrying out its responsibilities to protect the safety of miners as it pertains to the August 2007 Crandall Canyon Mine tragedy, which killed six miners and three rescue workers who died attempting to save the miners.

At the time of the incident, the mine operator was conducting a high-risk mining technique known as retreat mining in which pillars of coal previously left to support the mine roof are removed to maximize resource recovery. MSHA had previously reviewed and approved the mine operator's roof control plans associated with this activity and had also conducted periodic inspections of the mine, in part, to assure compliance with the approved plan.

Specifically, OIG found that MSHA could not show that it made the right decision in approving the Crandall Canyon Mine roof control plan or that the process was free from undue influence by the mine operator. MSHA did not have a rigorous, transparent review and approval process for roof control plans consisting of explicit criteria and plan evaluation factors, appropriate documentation, and active oversight and supervision by headquarters and District 9 management.

Further, MSHA did not ensure that subsequent inspections assessed compliance with, and the effectiveness of, approved plans in continuing to protect miners.

In the report, OIG has made nine recommendations to the Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health designed to:

  • Develop rigorous, standard, and transparent processes for the approval, implementation, and periodic reassessment of roof control plans, including active management oversight.
  • Establish explicit criteria and guidance for assessing the quality of, and potential safety risk associated with, proposed plans.
  • Re-evaluating the adequacy of existing roof control plans at all underground mines.
  • Clarify the handling of non-rescue activities and non-rescue personnel during active rescue operations.
  • According to OIG, MSHA concurred with the recommendations and stated it has initiated or planned numerous corrective actions. The report can be view at www.oig.dol.gov/public/reports/oa/2008/05-08-003-06-001.pdf.

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