|Mine Commission Chairman, Scott Matheson discusses recommendations to go to the governor.|
Mine Commission to make recommendations to Gov. Huntsman
The Utah Mine Safety Commission will be forwarding the following recommendations to Gov. Jon Huntsman. Continued from last week's edition: Number five; the state Office of Coal Mine Safety should institute a coal mine safety ombudsman alert system. This system would enable any person, especially miners, an opportunity to report any safety concern through all available communications channels including 1-800 telephone number, email, mail, in person reports. To encourage candor and forthrightness, this system would have strict legal protections that guarantee the privacy and confidentiality of the person making the report. The Ombudsman would investigate and wherever indicated, act on such reports by taking concerns to any private or public person or entity, including the Mine Safety and Health Administration and coal operators who can address the concerns.
Recommendation: The Mine Safety Technical advisory commission should determine whether it can develop criteria and an efficient procedure to evaluate and determine whether an independant technical review of a particular mining plan is warranted by unusally challenging conditions present in a given mine. One commission member, David Litvin had some trouble with this recommendation as it was previously written, Rep. Kay McIff worked on the language for this recommendation and presented it to the commission and the commission agreed to include the recommendation concerning mine plans.
The recommendations regarding the Western Energy Training Center and emergency response center had support from the commission and were moved through quickly. These recommendations include: The state should establish a Mine Safety Emergency Response Center at the WETC facility near Helper. This facility will facilitate emergency response training and will house specialized emergency response equipment, such as jet engine fire suppression, gas chromatography and special tunneling equipment. The center would serve underground coal mines in Utah and possibly Wyoming and Colorado and could ultimately serve other mining operations in the Intermountain West. It would provide classroom and field space for advanced emergency response training for industry stakeholders, including executive management, training for community and agency support networks for the mining industry, and specialized safety and rescue equipment that could be used by all participating mines. The Center would be integrated with the WETC training program and would concentrate on mining disaster prevention, emergency preparedness and emergency response and rescue.
Next recommendation: The state would take all steps to ensure that safety concerns associated with liquid and gas hydrocarbon in Utah mines are effectively addressed through federal or state regulation or both. Testimony before the Commission about the hydrocarbon danger experienced at the Willow Creek Mine is the basis for this recommendation.
Next recommendation: The state should establish a research institute for mine safety and productivity. This institute would address the gap in support for mining research since Congress eliminated the US Bureau of Mines in 1996 and the state terminated mine research funding from the State Mineral Leasing Fund in 1999. Similar research programs have been established in Illinois and other coal states. This institute would concentrate on developing improved methods for mining under deep cover and other challenging conditions in Utah and other western states, including safety technology such as communication and tracking capability. Having a recognized research program working with industry would help attract additional funding from other sources such as NIOSH, DOE, and BLM. Research projects should be relevant to Utah mining and focus on safety and resource recovery. An Institute Board of Trustees consisting of academic, industry, and miner representatives would identify appropriate research topics in collaboration with the OCMS, the emergency response center, and WETC. Projects could address new mining methods, mine stress detection, planning ventilation systems, simulating mine fires, seismic monitoring, databases for best practices in bump prone environments, safety modifications of mine machinery, technology for locating miners following an accident and improved planning tools. The Technical Advisory Committee suggest $1 million in initial funding, which could come in part from redirected mineral lease revenue or a modest research levy on electrical energy produced by coal. Federal and industry funding support also should be pursued.
Next recommendation: The state should upgrade seismic monitoring coverage of the coal mining region of central Utah to establish the basic infrastructure for effective regional scale seismic monitoring of all areas of active coal mining and to enhance seismic monitoring at individual bump-prone active mines. Utah should seize a one-time opportunity to acquire for permanent use several high quality, three component broadband seismometers with associated signal processing, power and communications equipment. These stations currently monitor the Wasatch Plateau-Book Cliffs coalfields. Under the National Science foundation "Earth Scope" program, this seismic equipment can be purchased for $110,000 plus $5,000 yearly maintenance, a significant savings, and become part of the University of Utah Seismograph Stations regional network. In addition, to enhance monitoring of mining-induced seismicity the state should add above mine digital accelerographs linked by continuous telemetry to the University of Utah Seismograph Stations for selected active mines. This would require active cooperation and support from the mines and would cost about $15,000 for each installation, with modest installation and ongoing maintenance costs. The mines could provide the latter funding, as they have done at the three current stations. The Technical Advisory Committee supports this recommendation because the opportunity to analyze correlation of mining activity with mine induced seismicity may provide important risk assessment information for implementing longwall operations and identifying abnormally stressed pillars.
Next recommendation: The state should work with the University of Utah Seismograph Stations to develop a program for real time data processing of existing and improved mine-seismicity data to advance mine safety. The program should consider participation of trained personnel located in Utah's coal mining communities to participate in seismic monitoring. Professor Walter Arabasz, Director of the University of Utah Seismograph Stations has suggested the benefit of encouraging the Central Utah coal mining community to participate in the monitoring process by basing a monitoring training and observation operation in Utah's coal country, perhaps in conjunction with CEU and WETC facilities. The commission concurs in this suggestion, recognizing that such a program needs careful study, funding and support from the coal operators.