Thursday, September 27, 2007

Study says feds need to look closer at conveyor-belt ventilation for coal mines

A congressional study panel has concluded that federal Mine Safety and Health Administration regulators need to examine closely coal company plans that would use conveyor belt tunnels to carry fresh air into underground mines, reports Ken Ward Jr. of The Charleston Gazette.

The panel said MSHA officials should more authority to reject these plans when they saw fit, writes Ward. Although "generally illegal" after 1969, the use of "belt air" became widespread when the Bush administration rewrote MSHA regulations in 2004. In 2006, two workers were killed as a result of a conveyor belt fire at Massey Energy’s Aracoma Alma No. 1 Mine in Logan County, W.Va. As a result, Congress ordered MSHA to form a safety panel to review belt-air issues.

The six-member panel voted that MSHA continue to allow the use of belt air, but recommended changes in the approval of belt air plans. The panel wants MSHA district managers to have the power to exercise some judgment in reviewing proposals. As of now, if the coal company need only agree to checklist of safety measures. The change, the panel says, would allow some case-by-case discretion. (Read more)

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