MSHA Releases Results of December Impact Inspections

Federal inspectors issued 321 citations and orders during special impact inspections conducted at 10 coal mines and three metal/nonmetal mines last month.

The U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration recently announced that federal inspectors issued 321 citations and orders during special impact inspections conducted at 10 coal mines and three metal/nonmetal mines last month. The coal mines were issued 174 citations and 19 orders, while the metal/nonmetal operations were issued 112 citations and 16 orders.

These inspections, which began in force in April 2010 following the explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine, involve mines that merit increased agency attention and enforcement due to their poor compliance history or particular compliance concerns.

One of MSHA's most recent inspections was conducted during the night shift between Dec. 8 and 9 at Coal Creek Mining LLC's No. 2 Mine in Floyd County, Ky. The agency's team secured and monitored the phones during the inspection and issued 32 citations and 12 orders, which subsequently shut down the mine.

MSHA issued an imminent danger order when an inspector observed a coal pile, 5 feet high and 10 feet in diameter, on fire approximately 23 feet from an explosives storage magazine outside the mine. Additionally, the storage magazine, which contained two cases of explosives, had not been secured against unauthorized entry. A clearly identified key was lying on top of the magazine. Furthermore, a 5-gallon oil bucket full of burning coal and other materials was discovered near the intake portals of the mine.

"It is troubling that, after all this time, MSHA inspectors continue to find such serious hazards and some mine operators allow such conditions to exist," said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "We will continue to use all the enforcement tools at our disposal to combat noncompliance."

As a second example from last month, MSHA conducted an impact inspection Dec. 16-23 at Hecla Limited's Lucky Friday Mine in Shoshone County, Idaho. Inspectors issued 59 citations and 15 orders to Hecla Ltd. and 22 citations to Cementation USA Inc., an independent contractor. Two miners died at Lucky Friday Mine in 2011. In December, seven miners were trapped underground when a roof fall occurred, three of whom required hospitalization.

Among the violations cited was a repeated failure to maintain established ground support systems throughout the mine. In addition, ground support fixtures in several areas had not been installed or torqued properly; shafts had not been systematically inspected, tested and maintained; and steel structures in the shaft were not kept clean of hazardous materials.

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