Coal Mine Operators Seek To Modify Some Safety Standards

By J.J. Smith Jun 9, 2008

The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) is accepting comments on petitions by coal mine operators who seek to change mandatory safety standards.

MSHA is accepting comments on the petitions filed by four coal mine operators until June 16, 2008, according to a Federal Register notice posted on May 16, 2008.

The Federal Mine Safety and Health Act allows mine operators, or miners’ representatives, to file a petition to modify any mandatory safety standard to a coal, or other mine if an alternative method of achieving the same safety standard exists and provides the same level protection, MSHA says. The companies, their addresses, the mines at which safety changes are sought, their identifying docket numbers and the changes are:

  • Blue Diamond Coal Company, P.O. Box 47, Slemp, Ky. 41763; Mine 81, MSHA identification number 15-12753, located in Leslie County, Ky.; docket number, M-2008-012-C. Blue Diamond Coal Company is requesting a modification of the existing standard to permit check points to be established in six locations of the Turkey Creek Cutout Mains due to poor roof conditions. The company proposes establishing examination points to evaluate airflow entering and exiting the Turkey Creek Cutout Mains. The company also proposes to establish ventilation check points between certain breaks of the Turkey Creek Cutout Mains. In its petition, Blue Diamond Coal Company says the areas that have adverse roof conditions are substantial and would expose rehabilitation crews to hazards. Because the Turkey Creek Cutout Mains has ventilation value for other mines, it is the company’s desire not to seal these portals. In addition, the areas which the change in standards are sought are no longer used for travel by personnel or supply storage. However, the area will continue to be examined as required by the standard, but evaluation of the inlet and outlet would provide the necessary examination without exposing mine personnel to roof hazards.

  • South Tamaqua Coal Pockets, Inc., 804 West Penn Pike, Tamaqua, Pa. 18252; the mine, Yorktown Operation, MSHA identification number 36-09088, located in Luzerne County, Pa.; docket number, M-2008-013-C. South Tamaqua Coal Pockets is requesting a modification of the existing standard requiring contour lines at regular intervals to permit the use of cross-sections. The company also wants to “limit the required mapping of mine workings below to those present within 100 feet of the vein(s) being mined.” The company says the changes are needed because of the steep pitch encountered in mining anthracite coal veins, and “contour lines provide no useful information and their presence would make portions of the map illegible.” In addition, the use of cross-sections in lieu of contour lines provides critical information relative to the spacing between veins and proximity to other mine workings which fluctuate considerably. The vast majority of current surface anthracite mining involves either the mining of remnant pillars from previous mining/mine operators or the mining of veins of lower quality in proximity to inaccessible and frequently flooded abandoned mine workings which may or may not be mapped, the company says. The mine workings in the petition are usually inactive and abandoned, and therefore are not subject to changes during the life of the mine, but active mines will be mapped, the company adds.

  • AMFIRE Mining Company, LLC, One Energy Place, Latrobe, Pa. 15650; the Ondo Extension Mine, MSHA identification number 36-09005, the Nolo Mine, MSHA identification number 36-08850, and the Gillhouser Run Mine, MSHA identification number 36-09033, all located in Indiana County, Pa., the Madison Mine, MSHA identification number 36-09127, located in Cambria County, Pa., and the Dora 8 Mine, MSHA identification number 36-08704, located in Jefferson County, Pa.; their docket numbers are M-2008-014-C through M-2008-018-C. AMFIRE Mining wants the use of low-voltage or battery-powered nonpermissible electronic testing and diagnostic equipment in, or near, the last open crosscut, or within 150 feet of pillar workings, under controlled conditions, for testing and diagnosing mining equipment. To use that equipment, the company seeks an easing of standards restricting the use of nonpermissible or nonintrinsically safe electrical testing and diagnostic equipment used by maintenance personnel for trouble-shooting and repair of mining equipment commonly used and accepted which may include, but is not limited to, laptop computers, oscilloscopes, vibration analysis machines, cable fault detectors, point temperature probes, infrared temperature devices, insulation testers, voltage, current and power measurement devices and recorders, pressure flow measurement devices, signal analyzer devices, ultrasonic thickness gauges, electronic component testers, and electronic tachometers. The existing standard creates a condition of “diminished safety” to miners because the “nature, size, complexity and location” of mining equipment makes it “nearly impossible and potentially unsafe” to move or attempt to move disabled equipment to the last open crosscut for examination by diagnostic equipment and repairs, the company says.

  • White County Coal, LLC, 1525 County Road 1300 N, P.O. Box 457, Carmi, Ill. 62821, the Pattiki Mine, MSHA identification number, 11-03058, located in White County, Ill.; docket number M-2008-019-C. White County Coal wants to increase the maximum length of trailing cables that are used to power permissible pumps. White County Coal says the increase in length of trailing cables will only apply to the cables supplying three-phase 480-volt power for permissible pumps and the maximum length of the 480-volt power for permissible pumps will be 4,000 feet, the company says. In addition, the 480-volt power for permissible pump trailing cables will not be smaller than 6 American Wire Gauge (AWG) and all circuit breakers used to protect 6 AWG trailing cables exceeding 500 feet in length will have an instantaneous trip unit calibrated to trip at 60 amperes, the company says. The circuit breakers trip setting will be sealed or locked, and have permanent legible labels identifying the circuit breakers as being suitable for protecting 6 AWG cables. The replacement of instantaneous trip units used to protect 6 AWG trailing cables exceeding 500 feet in length will be calibrated to trip at 60 amperes and this setting will be sealed or locked. In addition, all circuit breakers used to protect 2 AWG trailing cables exceeding 500 feet in length will have instantaneous trip units calibrated to trip at 150 amperes and the trip setting of these circuit breakers will be sealed or locked and will have permanent legible labels that will be maintained to identify the circuit breaker as being suitable for protecting 2 AWG cables. Also, the replacement of instantaneous trip units, used to protect 2 AWG trailing cables exceeding 500 feet in length will be calibrated to trip at 150 feet in length and calibrated to trip at 150 amperes and the setting will be sealed or locked and permanent warning labels will be installed and maintained on the cover(s) of the power center identifying the location of each sealed or locked short-circuit protection device to warn the miners not to change or alter the short-circuit settings. In addition, White County Coal says if the petition is approved, alternative trailing cables will not be installed until miners designated to examine the integrity of the seals or locks, verify the short-circuit settings, and proper training has been provided for examining trailing cables for defects and damage.

Comments can be filed by several methods including the U.S. Postal Service, electronically, facsimile or by hand delivery or courier service. When submitting comments by the U.S. Postal System, by hand delivery, or by courier service, they can be sent to, or dropped off at MSHA Office of Standards, Regulations, and Variances 1100 Wilson Boulevard, Room 2349, Arlington, Va. 22209, Attention: Patricia Silvey, Director, Office of Standards, Regulations, and Variances. Remember to include the MSHA docket number for each petition being commented on.

Comments can also be filed electronically at, when using this method, include the docket number in the subject line. Comments can also be submitted by facsimile at (202) 693-9441.

J.J. Smith is Safety and Security writer for SHRM Online.


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