Safety inspections of mines continue as the feds issued 196 citations during February at 14 U.S. mines, including a southern West Virginia coal mine targeted and shut down for its ventilation plans.
The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) said Wednesday it wrote 16 violations at Coal River Mining’s Fork Creek No. 1 Mine in Boone County in the first impact inspection it’s done there.
Inspectors found multiple violations of ventilation regulations and inoperable water sprayers on one of the continuous mining machines, said MSHA chief Joe Main.
Main said the conditions showed a complete disregard for worker safety.
They also reflected some of the same conditions that led to the April 2010 explosion of Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch mine, including broken water sprayers on a mining machine.
Multiple investigations found that methane and coal dust fueled the blast at Upper Big Branch, while broken or clogged water sprayers failed to keep it from propagating. The explosion killed 29 men and became the worst U.S. coal mine disaster in four decades.
At Fork Creek No. 1, inspectors found multiple violations of federal regulations for ventilation, including curtains that were either missing or rolled up.
Failure to maintain proper air flow underground not only increases the risk of explosions but also exposes miners to more of the coal dust that causes black lung disease.
Inspectors also issued orders and citations for accumulations of loose and fine coal, and for failure to properly coat the mine with pulverized limestone to prevent explosions.
MSHA said it took the operator three days to correct all the problems and get the closure orders lifted.