Whitesburg KY

Murray, MSHA at odds again


Murray Energy Corp. and the Mine Safety Health Administration are fighting over another Utah coal mine.

UtahAmerican Energy Inc., a subsidiary of Cleveland based Murray Energy, has asked a federal judge to overturn an MSHA citation requiring the company to change its roof control plan before longwall mining can resume again in a section of the West Ridge mine in Carbon County.

The company is also challenging an MSHA order that barrier pillars of coal be left to provide support to the mine ceiling and guard against “bounces” or “bumps” — outbursts of coal that happen when the ground shifts after the coal seam is ground away by the longwall mining machine.

“We want to make sure the operator has a plan in place to protect (miners) from the hazards of these bounces,” Kevin Stricklin, who heads MSHA’s coal division, told The Salt Lake Tribune.

Murray Energy Corp. vice president Rob Murray declined comment.

A bounce was blamed for the 2007 Crandall Canyon mine cave-in that trapped six miners, who were never seen again. Three rescuers were killed 10 days later in another cave-in during the disaster. Crandall Canyon was operated by Genwal Resources Inc., another Murray Energy subsidiary.

Murray Energy has contended that an earthquake caused the mine collapse, but seismologists at the University of Utah have refuted that claim, saying the tremor was the result of a cave-in.

MSHA fined Genwal $1.34 million last July for safety violations and recommended an investigation to determine whether criminal charges are warranted. The federal investigation and a civil lawsuit are pending.

Bounces at the West Ridge mine in the last week of January led to the current dispute between Murray Energy and MSHA.

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