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Federal Regulator Issues Citations to Wyoming Co. Mine for Black Lung, Explosion Hazards

Mine Safety Health Adminstration

The Mine Safety and Health Administration has issued 38 citations as a result of an inspection of Rhino Eastern LLC's Eagle Mine 3 in Wyoming County.  MSHA says inspectors found conditions that put miners at risk of developing black lung disease and increased the potential for deadly explosions.

According to a news release issued Monday, inspectors arrived at the mine mid-morning on June 24, securing the mine’s phone systems on the surface that provide communications to the underground mining section. They traveled to the underground working section, where they arrived undetected. There, they determined that the mine operator failed to follow approved ventilation, methane and dust control plans in several locations of the underground mine. 

“The alarming conditions found at Eagle Mine 3 show that common-sense practices to prevent black lung, mine explosions and other hazards were ignored,” said assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health Joseph A. Main in Monday’s release.

“There is absolutely no excuse for allowing such dangerous conditions to exist, and miners deserve better.” 

New respirable dust regulations, aimed at reducing instances of black lung, go into effect on August 1. The regulations address the shortfall in dust controls that were found at Eagle Mine 3, Main said.

“The practices found at this mine highlight why we need these tougher dust standards,” he said.

MSHA said in Monday's news release that inspectors revisited the Eagle Mine 3 because of  an elevated citation rate in the first quarter of 2014. The  federal regulator said the mine logged a high number of violations in a May impact inspection.

Inspectors found critical ventilation controls were not installed while the continuous mining machine was cutting coal, leaving clouds of harmful, thick dust that was clearly visible. Other pieces of mining equipment were found to be operating without ventilation controls and without the required amount of air quantity, which is necessary to carry away flammable, explosive, harmful gases, dust and smoke from the area where coal is being cut, mined, drilled for blasting or loaded. Two roof bolting machines were observed operating without properly installed ventilation line curtains and the correct air quantity. 

The release from MSHA said the operator was not complying with the approved roof control plan in several locations within the mine. Excessive entry widths exposed miners to the threat of falling rock from the mine roof and ribs.

The 38 citations issued to Eagle Mine 3 included seven closure orders for ventilation violations. Citations also were issued for violations regarding equipment conditions, damaged electrical cables, self-contained self-rescuers and the presence of combustible materials.

Calls made to Rhino Eastern Monday afternoon were not immediately returned. 


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