Saturday, August 18, 2007

MSHA's "J" Order Option

We now know the identities of all three of the Crandall Canyon rescuers killed Thursday. The Salt Lake Tribune (http://www.sltrib.com/ci_6656145) reported:

"The victims were identified Friday as Brandon Kimber of Price, Dale Ray Black of Huntington and Gary Jensen, a federal Mine Safety and Health Administration inspector in the agency's Price office. Five other miners and a second MSHA inspector were injured."

MSHA's directory shows that Gary Jensen was a roof control specialist in the Price, Utah, field office. Other news stories have given his age as 53.

Deepest sympathies to the families of the lost rescuers and also to their colleagues and friends in MSHA and the industry.

The Tribune story continued: "Stickler earlier said it would take almost three weeks alone to set up the drill rig and a couple of weeks to bore the sizable hole [for a rescue capsule to descend into the mine].

"Given the circumstances, however, 'we've talked to Mr. Murray and the company that they need to get moving in this direction,' Stricklin said, noting there is a capsule reasonably close to the mine."

In emergencies, ideally the mine operator, MSHA the state mine agency and any labor organizations involved will work closely together. MSHA typically issues a control order under section 103(k) of the Mine Act, which leaves the mine operator in control of the operation and requires that actions be cleared with the federal mine agency.

Many people are unaware that, should cooperation bereak down, MSHA has another option. MSHA can actually take over a rescue or recovery operation under Section 103(j) of the Mine Act (http://www.msha.gov/REGS/ACT/ACT1.HTM#8).

"j) In the event of any accident occurring in any coal or other mine, the operator shall notify the Secretary thereof and shall take appropriate measures to prevent the destruction of any evidence which would assist in investigating the cause or causes thereof. ****In the event of any accident occurring in a coal or other mine, where rescue and recovery work is necessary, the Secretary or an authorized representative of the Secretary shall take whatever action he deems appropriate to protect the life of any person, and he may, if he deems it appropriate, supervise and direct the rescue and recovery activities in such mine.****"

[Stars for emphasis are mine.]

I was told while working at MSHA, but haven't independently verified, that the federal mine agency had not issued a "j" order since 1976. In that year, the second of two explosions at the Scotia Mine in Kentucky took the lives of an entire rescue team including three federal inspectors. My understanding is that the Scotia Mine at the time of the second explosion was under a "j" type control order issued by MSHA's predecessor agency, the Mining Enforcement and Safety Administration (MESA), then in the Department of the Interior.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I assume that at the very least, this mine is under a 103-k order, which allows the mine operator to retain control, but requires all decisions to be approved by MSHA. I cannot understand why any MSHA official in their right mind would have allowed the CNN crew underground. That was an extremely dangerous "stunt" which could have resulted in someone being killed or injured. The horrible incident Thursday night is proof that a "bump" can occur at any time, without warning. Someone will now have to make the decision whether or not to resume the effort to gain access to the mine through the main entry. The only other option is to drill a borehole large enough to lower the rescue capsule, and a borehole of that size, 1800 feet deep, will take quite some time to drill.

5:39 PM  
Blogger Wordsmith said...

And WHO at CNN authorized their crew to go underground?! So used to shilling for the establishment.....

MSNBC has had Jeff Goodell on as a commenter several times last week. He mentioned at one point that MSHA ultimately has control and can call the shots, NOT Mr. Murray.

11:22 AM  

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