Wednesday, November 07, 2007

MSHA's 'Great Escape' concrete pipelines aim to give miners fresh air and way out during disasters

In an effort to save coal miners from explosions or fires, the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration has turned to a new plan for concrete pipelines as escape routes. The project has been dubbed "The Great Escape" after the 1963 Steve McQueen movie about a breakout from German POW camp, and it was to be unveiled today at the agency's Approval and Certification Center in Triadelphia, W.Va., The Charleston Gazette reported this morning.

"In the MSHA plan, mine operators would install 30- or 42-inch-diameter concrete pipes inside underground mine tunnels," writes Ken Ward Jr. "Pipes would provide miners with uncontaminated, breathable air, and with a protected escape path. Also, mine operators could install communications and tracking systems inside the pipes."

Many in the mining community had not heard of the project which MSHA had kept largely under wraps, Ward reports. While some have questions about where such pipelines would go as well as their ability to withstand explosions, Davitt McAteer, who ran MSHA under President Clinton, told Ward he was impressed when he saw the project. (Read more)

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