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Work halted at West Ridge

A press release issued by UtahAmerican Energy late Saturday night reported that the West Ridge mine was ordered to shut down its longwall operations by the United States Mining and Health Administration.

The West Ridge mine was recently subjected to mountain "bounces" and the incidents have put company and safety administration officials at odds concerning the best possible way to continue operations at the site.

"Since the review of mine conditions began, mining consultants to the company expert in longwall mining in Utah have disagreed with MSHA on its approach to ensuring employee safety at the mine," said the UtahAmerican release.

Following a prior MSHA ordered shut-down, the company began using a remote mining system that according to their statement, "has been working and all employee safety has been provided, the longwall is idled again as MSHA directed the company to stop mining immediately at the next crosscut."

The UtahAmerican release contends that of the "three mountain bumps during the last week of January. One miner sustained minor injuries when he fell during a bump, not as a result of being hit by bursting coal."

A bounce or bump can cause seismic activity strong enough to expel coal inside of a mine with massive force.

In earlier reports MSHA indicated that it was the Jan. 31 bump that had caused a reportable accident.

The company statement also purports that MSHA has directed West Ridge officials to "pull the longwall out and move to another panel which is unavailable."

In a Monday email, MSHA officials clearly state their position.

"MSHA has put the safety of the miners at the West Ridge mine first.

The agency's order to stop mining under the current plan was based on West Ridge's history of bounces and their increasing magnitude, deeper mining conditions and the fact that there are not barrier pillars in place to help support the mine's roof and ribs."

The safety and health administration's statement continues, "In MSHA's judgment these conditions did not afford adequate protection to the West Ridge miners. MSHA will consider any revised plan submitted by the mine operator and will approve it if it protects the safety of the miners."

The company has stated that MSHA's demands go further than are warranted and are an abuse of their governing power.

Layoffs will continue until company and safety officials reach an agreement concerning the mine's course of action.

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