Elk Creek Mine is still closed to regular operations due to high levels of carbon monoxide.
According to Jesse Lawder of the Department of Labor, on Jan. 9 an existing Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) order was modified to withdraw all miners from Elk Creek Mine in Somerset.
"The longwall had been under closure for two separate bounce incidents and, more recently, elevated amounts of carbon monoxide (CO) were being detected. The withdrawal was based on higher levels of CO (up to 500 ppm) and visible smoke being found in the longwall setup entries," Lawder stated.
The MSHA inspections summary report shows no violations have been cited at the Elk Creek Mine for an on-going non-injury accident investigation begun on Jan. 10 and for spot inspections on Jan. 3-4. However, an on-going regular safety and health inspection begun on Jan. 2 resulted in six citations. Seven MSHA inspectors were on site at that time.
Oxbow Mining, which operates Elk Creek Mine, has not been assessed any penalties.
In an interview on Tuesday, Jan. 22, Oxbow Mining president Jim Cooper stated, "When taking coal across a longwall ... behind it are falls and that registers on things, even the seismic information that some people call an earthquake. Any time that happens, that can change the ventilation, and we did have one that altered our ventilation. Does that start a [spontaneous combustion]? No ... The coal in the North Fork Valley has a strong trend toward spontaneous combustion underground. More so than any coal I know of, really. And I had never known of spontaneous combustion underground until I moved west in '79. So the coal has that propensity. Our seam is sometimes thicker than what we can actually mine, and that leaves coal behind us ... Of course we have to ventilate. So, sometimes the combination of that coal, moisture and air can cause the coal to spontaneously [combust] and you can have it smoldering behind you. I think that's what has happened here."
Regarding the six violations, Cooper stated, "It is MSHA's job to enforce the Act, and I assume that's what those six violations are. MSHA issues citations on a regular basis when they come to inspect the mine. I don't know of any citation that we had that would have affected anything that is going on underground.
"What I do know is that we got the order on Wednesday, Jan. 9, at [9:52 a.m.], and that was a result of an inspector detecting 500 ppm of CO underground on a handheld monitor and he believed he saw smoke."
Concerning the work completed last week, Cooper said, "We are continuing to work toward resolution of the current situation in the safest manner that we can. We are continuing that with MSHA's assistance. Our temporary seals have been completed in the main west last Friday late. Since that time, both MSHA and Oxbow have been monitoring separately the air quality behind those temporary seals.
"Currently, they are headed in the right direction. Not as quickly as we would like them to," said Cooper.
Oxbow has submitted plans to MSHA to see what kind of things could be done to speed up the process.
"Basically, we're trying to get it to a quality that is satisfiable then we'll put people back underground and put in the permanent seals. Then we'll be able to call people back to work. Of course, it's our goal to get back to production as quickly as we can, but we have to make sure we are doing it in the safest manner we can to address the problem in the mine. We understand the impact it has on our employees, their families and even the community," Cooper said.blog comments powered by Disqus