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MSHA issues imminent danger order at McDowell County WV mine

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The Mine Safety and Health Administration issued an imminent danger order at a McDowell County mine following an impact inspection Aug. 1. The mine was allowed to re-open Aug. 13.

The JJ&E Coal Corp.'s Horse Creek Mine No. 2 was one of nine coal mines and five metal/nonmetal mines to undergo impact inspections in August. Impact inspections began following the Upper Big Branch disaster in 2010. They are targeted at mines that in MSHA's judgment merit increased attention and enforcement because of their poor compliance history or particular compliance concerns.

According to a statement issued by MSHA Sept. 26, the inspection at Horse Creek resulted in eight unwarrantable failure orders, one task training order, one imminent danger order and 36 104(a) citations.

Inspectors found accumulations of loose coal and coal fines up to 30 inches deep the entire length of the two conveyer belts, which were 350 feet and 750 feet long, respectively, according to the MSHA statement. Bottom belt rollers on both conveyors turned in accumulations up to six inches deep, a potential fire hazard. These conditions had been documented by the mine superintendent and mine manager during the preshift/on-shift examinations every day for almost a week, noting in daily inspection records since July 27 that each belt "needs additional cleaning, work in progress." There was no evidence work had been done to clean these belts, MSHA said.

MSHA also cited the mine operator for violating roof support, ventilation, electrical and surface regulations. Inspectors observed roof bolting machine operators installing roof bolts with no ventilation curtain installed. When tested with chemical smoke, there was no air movement detected. Operating mining machinery without adequate ventilation exposes miners to respirable dust that can lead to black lung, and it can result in accumulations of gas and coal dust that increase the chance of a fire or explosion, MSHA said.

MSHA said it issued an imminent danger order to JJ&E based on its practice of conducting inadequate mine examinations, failure to provide adequate compliance oversight, failure to comply with approved ventilation and roof control plans, recurring hazardous conditions and the number of citations and orders that were issued in the past year and remained outstanding at the time of the Aug. 1 impact inspection.

Production was allowed to resume Aug. 13, when all citations and orders associated with the impact inspection were terminated and cited conditions corrected. The operator developed and implemented a compliance plan and improvements were made to the roof control and ventilation plans.

Overall in August, MSHA issued 213 citations, 23 orders and one safeguard during special impact inspections. JJ&E was the only one to receive an imminent danger order.

Two other mines in West Virginia received impact inspections in August: the Eastern Associated Coal Federal No. 2 mine in Monongalia County and the Elk Run Coal Co. Black Castle mine in Boone County. Federal No. 2 received 19 citations and four orders. Black Castle received 16 citations.