During a routine inspection by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) on Tuesday, Jan. 8, Elk Creek mine was shut down due to levels of carbon monoxide behind the longwall. MSHA gave the order at 9:52 a.m.
Jim Cooper, president of Oxbow Mining, stated on Monday, Jan. 14, "We don't acknowledge having a fire.
Nobody's seen any flames, but we certainly have what we recognize as a heating event behind our longwall. We have a slight increase in gases which indicates that."
Oxbow management and MSHA are taking all the necessary precautions to protect the safety of the miners. "There are three MSHA guys here. They are working [really well] with us to get a plan to re-enter the mine and isolate this spot and smother it," Cooper said. "We've been working on it every day this weekend until late and they've been right in there helping us."
About 240 miners have been affected by the shut down.
Early Tuesday afternoon, MSHA approved Oxbow's detailed plan to reduce the carbon monoxide. On Wednesday, Jan. 16, at 7 a.m. about 90 miners will begin the operation to take atmosphere samples, isolate and seal the problem area. "The carbon monoxide is coming out of the longwall gob area, which is the area behind the longwall, so you can't get back there. The longwall has already traveled through there and everything is caved in. What we have to do is starve the place for oxygen," Cooper said on Tuesday, Jan. 15.
Cooper does not believe this is going to be a long process. After Wednesday's work is completed, it will take three days to have temporary seals put in. They will wait some days to monitor the atmosphere. Then the plan is to go in and put in some permanent seals that would seal off this area of the mine.
"They would then be able to mine again limited to the area they are not sealing in. That's why we're doing it the way we are doing it so we will have some area to still put — if not all of our people — then at least most of them," Cooper said.
The high carbon monoxide levels were found by an MSHA inspector with a handheld meter. Concerning the MSHA inspection, Cooper said, the gas analysis for the week prior to the discovery was normal and not showing any problems.
There were no injuries or illnesses due to the carbon monoxide levels.
"You can't imagine how detailed these plans have to be. The process we're involved in right now is that we have to provide a task for each shift. We have to provide all the training and the names of each person that would be on each shift and what task they would be doing," Cooper said.
"One of the first things you do is make sure you can get a plan where you can safely inert the mine to take care of the problem. We've got that now," he said. "If you're going to err, you're going to err on the side of cautiousness with something like this for safety."blog comments powered by Disqus