KY Mine Hit with Safety Violations

Friday, May 20, 2011 @ 04:05 PM gHale

A southeastern Kentucky coal mine received 10 withdrawal orders a month after federal regulators hit the mine’s operator with a first-ever pattern of violations notice.

The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) announced the orders at Abner Branch Rider Mine in Leslie County on Wednesday, saying inspectors found multiple violations at the Bledsoe Coal Corp.’s mine in May.

The mine was one of the first two ever issued a pattern of violation notice by MSHA. The agency took the action in April, also citing the New West Virginia Mining Co.’s Apache Mine in McDowell County, W.Va. That mining operation is currently idle.

The 10 orders in May fall under the pattern of violations notice. Under the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977, MSHA may order miners withdrawn from a mine each time the agency issues a significant and substantial violation. The order remains in place until the company corrects the violation.

A mine operator can get off pattern of violation status only after a complete inspection occurs without a significant and substantial violation citation.

“I’ve said time and again that MSHA will use all the tools at its disposal to prevent accidents, illnesses and injuries in the nation’s mines,” said Joseph A. Main, assistant labor secretary for mine safety and health.

Bledsoe Coal Corp.’s parent company, James River Coal of Richmond, Va., was not immediately available for comment.

The 10 withdrawal orders include two issued on May 3 because the mine roof was not adequately supported to prevent a potential roof fall. To terminate the order, the mine operator scaled the loose drawrock and installed cap blocks and wedges over the bearing plates to support the mine roof. Two miners withdrew from the mine until the company fixed the conditions.

Of the remaining orders, three came May 10 for inadequate ventilation controls and inadequate roof, rib and face support, causing the withdrawal of more than 30 miners working over three shifts. Inspectors found ventilation controls between the secondary escape way and the belt entry had become damaged and difficult to open. The order related to inadequate ventilation controls ended the following day when the operator installed a pressure relief slider in the personnel door and made modifications to enable the doors to easily open.

Inspectors found large slabs of material measuring 5 feet in height, 12 feet in length and 4 to 8 inches in thickness, as well as the presence of a crack 2 to 4 inches behind the rib material. The order related to inadequate rib support ended the following day when officials wrapped the unsafe ribs with banding material and 1- by 6- inch boards.

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