Whitesburg KY

Mine closes after inspectors issue 5 ‘failure’ orders

A Letcher County coal mine is stopping production after being issued 23 citations and seven orders by federal mining regulators during an “impact” inspection.

The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration conducted the inspection at TRC Mining Corp. No. 2 mine, located on the Right Fork of Beaver at Deane, on Nov. 27. Included in the citations and orders issued by inspectors were five unwarrantable failure orders and two failure-to-abate orders for previously issued citations. The orders closed the entire underground portion of the mine.

Subsequent to this inspection, the mine operator changed the mine status to non-producing, with four miners working one shift per day. The operator also submitted a plan to remove equipment from the mine on December 7 and to have the removal completed by yesterday (Tuesday). This was the third impact inspection at this mine, which is owned by Rodney Bentley and Ted Thornsberry of Topmost in Knott County.

In 2011, the mine, formerly operated by Deane Mining LLC, employed 33 workers and produced 120,000 tons of coal.

Five unwarrantable failure orders were issued for failure to follow the approved ventilation plan, failure to properly maintain and repair mine seals, and failure to conduct adequate pre-shift examinations.

An MSHA news release said TRC’s approved ventilation plan on the mechanized mining unit stipulates the installation of a line curtain within 14 feet of each working face with a minimum air quantity in all 10 entries. Mining was underway when inspectors arrived to find either no line curtain where required or line curtains in excess of the required 14 feet; at one point a line curtain was installed 35 feet from the face. No air movement could be detected behind the curtains in four entries, and they did not extend into the last open cross-cut to maintain the necessary minimum air quantity. The operator also did not properly maintain the water spray system — provided for the belt drive transfer point — in an operable condition. At the time of the inspection, coal was running on the belt line at this location. The water supply had been turned off at the cutoff valve (where the branch line connects to the main water line).

According to MSHA, the mine also was cited for violations of annual retraining requirements, inadequate roof support, no warning devices at the end of permanent roof support, blocked personnel doors along each side of the #1 beltline, pre-shift examinations not recorded, failure to maintain the primary intake escape way, accumulations of combustible material in areas of the mine, and improperly maintained mining and electrical equipment and fire suppression systems.

In all, federal inspectors issued 285 citations, 11 orders and two safeguards during the special impact inspections conducted at nine coal mines and seven metal/nonmetal mines in November.

The monthly inspections, which began in force in April 2010 following the explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine, involve mines that merit increased agency attention and enforcement due to their poor compliance history or particular compliance concerns. These matters include high numbers of violations or closure orders; frequent hazard complaints or hotline calls; plan compliance issues; inadequate workplace examinations; a high number of accidents, injuries or illnesses; fatalities; adverse conditions such as increased methane liberation, faulty roof conditions and inadequate ventilation; and respirable dust.

“We continue to identify operators who have not gotten the message,” said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. “Exposure to harmful levels of respirable dust is unacceptable. Not conducting adequate examinations is unacceptable. Miners deserve better.”

The TRC Mine No. 2 had amassed $160,382 in fines this year before the inspection, according to the publication Sharpe’s Point: On Mine Safety.

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