Monday, November 28, 2005

Another Bad One in China

An explosion has killed 134 according to AP....

"Outside the mine late Monday, distraught family members sought answers. A stream of emergency vehicles with flashing lights traveled back and forth on the narrow road leading to the mine."

Too many us us remember just this kind of scene right here in the U.S. As recently as 1992.

Remember, it's winter alert season. Be careful out there.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Systematic Change At Last for China?

After years of hand-wringing over China's coal mine death toll, it seems that change may actually be under way that could make a difference. The government reportedly has closed half the country's mines, mainly small operations with bad safety records. Government officials are supposed to divest themselves of economic interest in the mines they regulate. Reuters reports.

Meanwhile China also is struggling with environmental problems related to coal. A South African journalist reports on underground fires that make some areas uninhabitable. The U.S. has seen a few cases of this too, notably in the old anthracite area of Pennsylvania.

Friday, November 18, 2005

KY Has New State Mine Safety Director

The Courier-Journal reports:

"Ronald H. Hughes of Pikeville was named yesterday to fill an Office of Mine Safety and Licensing position that has been vacant since Fletcher began a reorganization of state government two years ago.

"Hughes worked 32 years for the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration."

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Award-Winning Coal Mine Idled by CO Problem

Two large underground coal mines are struggling with safety-related problems that are causing lengthy shutdowns.

Arch Coal's West Elk Mine in Colorado, which produced some 6.5 m tons last year, shut down October 31 after a rise in carbon monoxide that indicated heating somewhere in an area with a number of worked-out longwall panels. The company has just announced that the mine will stay idle for at least another 6 weeks.

Ironically, MSHA had days before honored the mine with special notice for its 5-year safety record. The good news is that the mine's emergency planning worked: the automated monitoring system detected the problem and no one has been seriously injured in the incident or its aftermath.

Another major producer, CONSOL's Buchanan Mine #1, idle since mid-September due to a problem with the production hoist, may not be back in production until mid-December, AP reports. "The brake system was unable to hold the loaded skip, which went back down the shaft resulting in damage to the head frame structure, structure in the shaft, ropes, and the hoisting building. There were no injuries as a result of this, " the company told MSHA.

But also "the auxiliary mini cage located at the production shaft was removed from service due to damage..."

The Buchanan mine produced almost 4.4 m tons last year and reported 422 employees this year, according to MSHA data.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

They Knew It Was Coming

The Helena, Mont., Independent-Record is reporting that an October 15 rock slide has idled Apollo Gold Corp.'s Montana Tunnels open pit gold mine, Jefferson County, Mont.

The good news is that the slide was predicted and no one got hurt.

"...[mine] staff does most of the monitoring with the help of a sophisticated piece of equipment called a Trimble S6, which is about the size of a large video camera.

Each morning it’s mounted on a stand at the rim of the mine pit and is programmed to shoot an invisible laser beam at a series of prisms that are secured to posts on the walls of the pit.

The Trimble rapidly records the distances to these prisms located at specific coordinates or points. A computer downloads the data, and within a half-hour [geologist Jeff] Levell has a printout that tells him the movement of rocks, the direction of the movement and its velocity. This information allows him to know 48 hours ahead of time, if something is going to fail, he said. So far, supervisors have been able to move miners and equipment out of the way at least 24 hours ahead of a major slide."

The company plans to resume mining and is working with consultants on a plan, the paper said.

The operation has reported 237 employees this year. For some reason MSHA hasn't been out to the site since May according to the agency's data retrieval system.

The company says that in 2004 the Montana Tunnels Mine produced 33,743 ounces of gold and also had payable production of 970,751 ounces of silver, 10,064,265 pounds of lead and 26,222,805 pounds of zinc.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Early Outs For Miners

Early retirement from dangerous jobs is a key issue in a 5-day-old Spanish coal miners' strike, according to Basque website And despite tough competition against Spainsh coal from lower-wage countries, the miners seems to be winning:

"Unions, which have been blocking roads in mining areas since Thursday, had demanded a formula under which a worker's age is multiplied by a coefficient determined by how dangerous their particular job is....Through 2012, the period covered by the new accord, the government wanted the miners be at least 45 to retire. In the end the government abandoned its stance to accept the union plan."

Reuters has pix described as strikers rolling a tire onto a highway and throwing something at police.