MSHA Refuge Alternatives Meetings Start Today

MSHA today begins a series of stakeholder meetings and has announced a Feb. 23 workshop, all designed to help regulated parties win approval of alternative refuge chambers in underground coal mines. Meanwhile, the agency said it will comply with a Feb. 10 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that means small-mine rescue teams must train semi-annually rather than annually and must participate in two mine rescue contests annually rather than one. MSHA's final mine rescue teams rule was less demanding, and the United Mine Workers of America sued to force the federal agency to abide by the MINER Act. While UMWA did not win on all counts, the decision essentially says the MINER Act is clear that semi-annual training and two rescue contests are required, and merely judging one of the contents is not enough -- the team member must participate.

The meetings will help stakeholders comply with the Dec. 31, 2008, MSHA final rules on Refuge Alternatives for Underground Coal Mines and Flame-Resistant Conveyor Belt, Fire Prevention and Detection, and Use of Air from the Belt Entry. The Feb. 23 workshop on the approval process for refuge alternatives will cover application procedures for refuge alternatives approval, found in 30 CFR Subpart L of Part 7. The workshop will be held from 1-4 p.m. at the MSHA Approval and Certification Center in Triadelphia, W.Va. Contact Carlene Falck at 304-547-2007 or falck.carlene@dol.gov to reserve a seat.

MSHA's Coal Mine Safety and Health unit will conduct district stakeholder meetings to discuss the Refuge Alternatives and belt air rules and how MSHA will enforce them today at the Holiday Inn in Indiana, Pa., beginning at 1 p.m.; tomorrow at the Sheraton Four Points in Greensburg, Pa., at 1 p.m.; Feb. 26 at Jenny Wiley State Park in Prestonsburg, Ky., at 9 a.m.; and Feb. 26 at the Double Tree Hotel in Grand Junction, Colo., at 9 a.m.

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