Thursday, November 01, 2012

Coal-dust violations found at mines after journalists report increases in Appalachian black-lung disease

Federal coal mine inspectors found more than 120 dust-level violations at 13 coal mines in September after the The Charleston Gazette, the Center for Public Integrity and NPR published an investigative report about the resurgence of black lung disease in Central Appalachia. The report exposed "widespread misconduct" by coal companies and often lax oversight by the Mine Safety and Health Administration, the CPI';s Chris Hamby reports. MSHA insists the news reports did not prompt the inspections. (NPR photo by David Deal: Miner performs lung test)

Since the 2010 disaster at the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia, where excessive coal dust caused the massive explosion that killed 23 miners, inspectors have been going on blitzes of underground mines. The most recent inspections used new criteria that allowed officials to target mines that were most likely to have dust build-ups that can lead to black lung. Inspectors found that many companies failed to properly ventilate working areas and used "broken-down" equipment to suppress dust, Hamby writes. (Read more)

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