MSHA Adds Fourth Hearing on Proximity Detection Rule

The August 2011 proposed rule would require underground coal mine operators to install proximity detection systems on continuous mining machines, except for full-face continuous mining machines.

Four public hearings within the next two weeks will give coal mining industry representatives the chance to comment on a proposed MSHA rule affecting their underground mines. Published Aug. 31, the rule would require operators of those mines to install proximity detection systems on continuous mining machines, except for full-face continuous mining machines, as a way of preventing injuries and deaths from crushing impacts.

The four hearings will take place Oct. 18 in Denver; Oct. 20 in Charleston, W.Va.; Oct. 25 in Washington, Pa.; and Oct. 27 in Evansville, Ind., with this fourth hearing added this week. All four will start at 9 a.m. local time.

The proposed rule is available here. MSHA is accepting comments about it until Nov. 14.

The agency estimates the technology could have prevented 30 deaths and about 200 injuries in underground coal mines from 1984 through 2010. Many of these occurred in confined areas where a proximity detection system could have warned the miners and stopped the machines in time, according to MSHA, which began working with the coal mining industry in 2002 to develop a proximity detection system. MSHA evaluated three systems and selected the Nautilus, International "Buddy System" for testing because it could be adapted to remote-controlled continuous mining machines in the least amount of time. The agency approved it and two more systems, the Geosteering Tramguard™ System and the Matrix Design Group M3–1000 Proximity Monitoring System, in 2009.

In its proposed rule, MSHA said at least 35 remote-controlled continuous mining machines in U.S. underground coal mines are equipped with proximity detection systems. MSHA monitors the systems' installation and development, and it also has evaluated such systems in South African mines.

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