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Front Page » April 8, 2008 » Local News » Hearings on Crandall Canyon Mine Part Xxvi: Senator Kenne...
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Hearings on Crandall Canyon Mine Part Xxvi: Senator Kennedy Senate Report Released on Mine Disaster

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In order for the Safety and Health Technology Center to perform its expanded responsibilities with the necessary independence, the Directorate of Technical Support should report directly to the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health (in the same way that Coal Mine Safety and Health and Metal/Nonmetal Mine Safety and Health departments now report).

Monitoring Of Retreat Mining

• In all mines where retreat mining is used, the mine operators should be required to make a weekly written report on safety conditions.

• MSHA roof control specialists should visit such mine at least monthly during these operations to assess conditions, and file a report on each visit as part of the Uniform Mine File.

Minimizing, and Tracking, Contacts with Mine Operators During The Review Process

The experience at Crandall Canyon demonstrates that MSHA's review and approval process must be more carefully protected from pressure or influence by mine operators. The "Mine Plan Approval Procedures" section of MSHA's Program Policy Manual attempts to address this concern, but the procedures are inadequate.

• The secretary should promulgate regulations to monitor and centralize communications with mine operators. Specifically, mine operators who wish to contact any agency official involved in the review process, during a period in which the operator has a proposed mine plan or amendment pending before the agency, should do so only through a designated agency liaison. The liaison should keep detailed records of all contacts with the mine operator during this period. The designated liaison can be an existing MSHA official - such as the assistant district manager or engineering coordinator.

• The secretary should specify penalties that will be imposed on mine operators for failure to follow these regulations and, if warranted, appropriate disciplinary action should be taken against MSHA personnel.

• The secretary should design and implement a system in every district office for tracking contacts between mine operators and agency.

A subsection on "Management System Controls" instructs districts that: "Contacts by the District with mine operators to request additional information should be limited to specially designated MSHA personnel, or a specially designed system." Found at personnel at all times, even when no plan or amendment is pending with the district office.

Enhance Communication With Other Agencies

If MSHA and BLM had communicated in late 2006 and 2007 about safety conditions at Crandall Canyon, the tragedy of August 2007 might have been avoided or mitigated.

• To correct this lack of communication, each MSHA district should create an interagency mine safety task force comprised of representatives from each federal government agency involved in monitoring, regulating, or inspecting mines in the district. The secretary should also urge state and local agencies to participate. The task force should meet at least quarterly to share all information relevant to safety conditions at mines in the jurisdiction. MSHA should also consult task force members whenever an amendment to the mine plan is submitted. Task forces may meet by telephone or other means.

In addition to working group meetings, agencies represented in the working groups should exchange documents and information on health and safety conditions at the mines under their jurisdiction. Such documents and information should include, for example, MSHA citations and information about rule violations, BLM reports containing safety observations, and inspection reports by state agencies.

Strengthening Accident Reporting Requirements

The secretary should amend Part 50 of Chapter 30 of the Code of Federal Regulations to clarify reporting requirements in the event of any seismic disturbance. Specifically, such regulations should require that if a seismic disturbance or other event compromising stability (including a bounce, bump, floor heave, outburst, or roof fall) occurs, and mining activity stops for more than one hour within six hours after the disturbance or event, the disturbance or event should be a reportable "accident" under 30 CFR 50.2(h).

The Agency should undertake an investigation within 10 days of becoming aware of facts at a mine that, considering the history of seismic activity, geological characteristics, and safety record of the mine, would lead a reasonable person to believe that it is more likely than not that a seismic disturbance of the type described above has occurred at a mine.

MSHA should investigate every seismic disturbance or event of which it becomes aware in areas of a mine where retreat mining is being used. This investigation need not initially involve a site visit. For example, MSHA officials can interview mine officials about the event and ask for log books describing the incident to be provided immediately.

A "floor heave" is upward movement of a coal seam floor under pressure from adjacent coal pillars.

The Crandall Canyon mine posed significant risks prior to the disaster: Murray was operating a dangerous mine in a potentially dangerous manner, while being either lax on or hostile to safety and bullying a compliant MSHA.

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