Thursday, December 30, 2004

MSHA Retirements

I dropped by MSHA this afternoon and heard of a number of retirements. Among others, I had a chance to wish Diana Gruver all the best. I hope Roger Schmidt got my message as well. Dave Couillard informed me earlier of his pending departure. And there are others. Retirements always rise at year's end; this time, the agency is losing some of the last from its original core. I also heard -- from a usually reliable source -- that Marvin Nichols' last day will be January 3rd. But that falls in the category of rumor, no confirmation.

Two New Fatalities Added to Count, One Dropped

MSHA has just added two more coal mine fatalities to its count for 2004, at the same time removing one that was originally listed in October.

Newly added:

Coal Fatality #26 - March 12, 2004 (Determined Chargeable 12/30/2004) -- Striking or Bumping - Surface - WV Simmons Fork Mining, Inc. - Paynter Branch Surface MineFurther details were not immediately available.

Coal Fatality #27 - December 2, 2004 (Determined Chargeable 12/30/2004) -- Falling, Rolling or Sliding Rock/Material - Surface - WV Catenary Coal Company - Samples Mine. William S. Woods was hit by a falling tree.


Coal Fatality #22 - October 9, 2004
"Accident has been delisted as a chargeable fatality and is not included in MSHA's 2004 count. The delisting is based on medical evidence that the death resulted from natural causes. (12/30/2004)"
The delisted incident occurred at Consolidation Coal Co., Shoemaker Mine, Marshall County, W.Va. MSHA's original preliminary report indicated that beltman Forrest Riley had been struck by the end of a bent pipe that penetrated through an opening in the operator's compartment of a battery-powered tractor that he was operating underground.

Deaths in the nation's mining industry officially stand at 52 for the year, 26 each in the coal and metal/nonmetal sectors. The industry appears poised possibly to improve on last year's historic low of 56 fatalities overall.

The previous record low fatality record for coal mining was 27, in 2002; for metal and nonmetal mining, the low of 26 was reached last year.

Additional fatalities may be under review. Reviews and minor adjustments in the MSHA fatality count are not uncommon, even after the end of a year.

For instance, MSHA on July 26 opened an investigation of a fatality at the Peabody Energy Colony Bay Surface Mine, Boone County, W.Va. According to the Charleston Gazette, Brian Castle was hit by a coal truck while driving his personal vehicle along a mine haul road on the way to work at a neighboring operation. MSHA has not added the incident to the count of mining fatalities.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Mine Fire Still Burning In E. Ky.

As of this morning, the Associated Press reports that a major fire was still burning at Alliance Resources' Partners Excel No. 3 Mine, near Pikeville, Ky. The mine has been sealed, and about 250 miners are idled until the fire can be extinguished.

No one was hurt in the blaze, discovered on Christmas Day. Federal and state agencies responded to the scene and are monitoring the situation.

Mine fires can sometimes take months to extinguish. However, a fire earlier this year at another Alliance Resources' Partners mine earlier this year, the Dotiki Mine near Nebo, Ky., was extinguished in quick order, earning the personal commendation of federal safety officials.

The two mines are run by different Alliance subsidiaries.


New Blog

Some of you may remember me from the public information office of the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration, which was my professional home for many years.

Old habits die hard. So this blog will aim to provide you with at least one highlight each working day that in some way illuminates the safety and health of those people who earn their livings by digging coal, gold and other minerals.

Wishing all of you a safe and happy year in 2005.