Thursday, January 27, 2005

First Mine Death of 2005

MSHA reports that a miner died Tuesday in a powered haulage accident at the Holcim (US) Incorporated Artesia Quarry & Mill, a crushed limestone operation in Stone County, Miss. No further details were immediately available. The pit and plant employ about 100 people. Flammable and combustible waste are used to produce cement. MSHA last inspected the facility in August.

Holcim is one of the world's largest cement producers.


Monday, January 24, 2005

Beating Up on Miners

Kentucky miners Wendell and Coy McClain, brothers, and two other miners allegedly got fired for complaining about unsafe mining conditions and bad brakes on a coal scoop.

Not only that, a co-worker allegedly wrapped a steel cable around Coy McClain's neck and threatened to pull him through some machinery. The same miner is said to have theatened another complainant as well, for involving federal authorities.

Although the company denies the charges, some evidence must exist because both federal and state authorities have filed complaints on the miners' behalf. The Louisville Courier-Journal has the story at:

The article doesn't say which of Misty Mountain Coal Co.'s two small Kentucky mines was the site of the complaints, but the No. 4 Mine had more than 50 violations on its last regular federal inspection, quite a few for a 10-employee operation.

It's good to see that MSHA inspectors and investigators continue enforcing the law, even though the agency doesn't like to talk much about enforcement these days.

The publicity comes thanks to Wes Addington, a young public interest lawyer heading the newly reactivated Mine Safety Project of the Appalachian Citizens Law Center, Prestonsburg, Ky. The project had gone through a hiatus from lack of funding. Its founder, Tony Oppegard, served as an adviser to MSHA assistant secretary Davitt McAteer during the Clinton Administration, and is now with the Kentucky state mine safety program. One tradition Tony Oppegard established was that of publicizing cases of safety-related retaliation against miners. Adverse publicity may sometimes do as much to discourage lawbreaking as enforcement can do.

More on Wes Addington and the Mine Safety Project at

Friday, January 21, 2005

New Documents Turn Up On Quecreek Flood

MSHA announces that it has turned up new documents relating to the history of the Quecreek Mine, which flooded in summer 2002 with the near loss of 18 lives. The rescue of nine miners who were trapped became a real international "reality show" for three days. A large issue in the investiation was whether responsible parties had diligently checked the proximity of the workings to old flooded mines. MSHA says the new documents don't change their conclusions. I haven't evaluated their statement, but here is the reference:

Monday, January 10, 2005

Jim Walter Settles Legal Cases Over 2001 Mine Disaster

AP has a story that Jim Walter Resources has settled all civil lawsuits related to twin explosions that killed thirteen miners at the Jim Walter No. 5 Mine near Brookwood, Ala., on September 23, 2001. No one was commenting or providing details, although the company president and CEO issued a statement expressing gratitude that the matter was resolved.

Nothing was said about $440,000 in civil penalties imposed by MSHA, which the company contested.

Apaprently the No. 5 mine is safe from closing for the present, and the company recently announced further investments in its No. 7 Mine due to an increasing price for metallurgical coal. The No. 7 mine had two fatalities in 2004.


Saturday, January 08, 2005

Major Mine Fire Extinguished, Recovery Planned

Alliance Resource Partners, L.P., announced yeterday that the fire discovered at its Excel No. 3 in Pike County, Ky., on Christmas Day has been extinguished.

An MSHA robot traveled into the mine and collected data in the form of video, temperature and atmospheric readings, the company said in a presss release, and mine rescue teams are preparing to enter the mine and examine the fire area.

The Excel No. 3 mine employs about 250 miners.

The Excel fire was the second major fire at an Alliance operation this year; both fire were extinguished without injury to miners and within a few weeks' time.

Injuries to miners as a result of mine fires have become relatively rare with the widespread use of electronic detection systems and effective emergency planning. Ther last major mine disaster due to fire occurred more than 20 years ago, when 27 miners lost their lves in the Wilberg Mine near Price, Utah, in a fire that broke out December 19, 1984. However, fires have idled large coal mines for as much as a year.

New technology including use of an specially adapted jet aircraft engine to inject carbon dioxide into the fire area has recently shortened fire recovery times.

At the same time, any mine fire spells potential danger to miners as well as financial losses for the company and its employees. Such fires also mean expense to the taxpayer: government agencies intensively monitor the mining company's response and support the effort with sopecialized technology.


Thursday, January 06, 2005

China Coal Miners' Safety Crisis

China may lead in coal mine fatalities worldwide, with more than 4,000 miners' deaths reported in 2004; some sources cite higher figures. Fatalities may be rising as China is already the worldwide leader in coal production and demand for coal within China continues to soar. The Chinese government has pledged to put more attention into coal mine safety. The U.S. government last year signed agreements with China to work together on occupational safety isssues, including mine safety. It will be ineresting to see what 2005 will hold.

The Standard, "China's Business Newspaper," reports an expected shortfall in Chinese coal, even though production of 2 billion tons is predicted (about twice the U.S. annual coal production).

Price incresases are squeezing Chinese power producers, according to the Internatrional Herald Tribune:

The government recently arrested about 20 people for illegal mining in connection with a fire in November that killed 70 miners:,4057,11870894%255E1702,00.html

Premier Wan Jibao lays a wreath for coal miners killed in a November 28 accident, and visits with victims' families:

U.S./China agreements:

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Yet Another 2004 Mine Death

MSHA reports that a coal miner died yesterday as a result of an underground machinery accident that occurred December 21 at the Tennco, Inc., Valley Creek Mine No. 2,located in Claiborne County, Tenn. The mine has about 23 employees. The company has two active mines registered with MSHA and is listed as controlled by Jackie (Mitch) Fannin and Jack Stump. No additional details were immediately available from MSHA.

This makes 28 coal mining fatalities for the year, one more than the industry's record low of 27 established in 2002. Last year there were 30 coal mine fatalities.

Total mine fatalities for the year, including coal and metal/nonmetal mines, now stand at 54, still down from last year's record low of 56.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Only 100 Mining Engineers

...will graduate from U.S. programs this year. And maybe that is enough? "Employment in the field is projected to decline through 2012," AP reports.


Monday, January 03, 2005

One More Fatality in 2004

A coal miner died December 30 after being injured in a December 28 accident at an International Coal Group surface facility in Kentucky. The incident at the ICG Knott County LLC Supreme Energy Prep Plant was classified as "striking or bumping," with no further details immediately available from MSHA.

MSHA announced a new historic safety record of 53 mine fatalities in 2004,down from the previous low of 56 in 2003.