While mine owners in West Virginia have been put on notice that they cannot be negligent and place their workers in harm’s way, not all of them have received the message. Recently, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) conducted an impact inspection at Eagle Mine 3, owned by Rhino Eastern LLC, and found that conditions there put mine workers at risk not only of developing black lung disease, but also of a lethal explosion.
For the June 24 impact inspection, MSHA inspectors secured the mine’s phone system on the surface and traveled to the underground working section undetected. There, they uncovered 38 violations overall, including failure to follow the approved ventilation, dust control, and methane plans in multiple locations. MSHA inspectors had chosen to revisit Eagle Mine 3 due to the fact that it received a high number of citations during the first quarter of 2014, as well as numerous violations during an impact inspection in May.
During the most recent inspection, MSHA inspectors found that ventilation controls were never installed while the continuous mining machine cut coal, which resulted in clouds of thick, harmful coal dust. Inspectors also found that other mining equipment lacked proper ventilation controls or the requisite amount of air quality necessary to prevent flammable, explosive, and harmful dust, smoke, and gases from gathering in the areas where coal was mined, drilled for, or cut. This included two roof bolting machines that operated without ventilation line curtains installed or the proper quantity of air. Such an environment puts mine workers at risk of developing black lung disease or being the victims of a lethal explosion.
In addition, in multiple locations, the mine operator did not comply with the approved roof control plan. Entry widths that were excessive made mine workers vulnerable to falling rocks from the roof and ribs of the mine. There were also damaged electrical cables and combustible material present.
The MSHA inspectors declared that the operator of Eagle Mine 3 had been ignoring “common sense” practices that would have prevented mine explosions, black lung disease, and other safety hazards. The dangerous situation reinforced how important it was to maintain vigilance over the mines and ensure that improvements to dust control were made. Mine workers at Eagle Mine 3 deserved better than their employer had given them.
Beginning on August 1, new regulations will go into effect with the intent of preventing black lung disease once and for all. These regulations include provisions that will directly address the problems with dust control found at Eagle Mine 3. Hopefully Eagle Mine 3’s operators will finally improve the situation, and a tragic situation such as a mine explosion will be prevented once and for all.
The Wolfe Law Firm has been providing legal services for nearly 25 years. Located in Elkins, West Virginia, the firm provides services in the areas of personal injury, criminal defense, bankruptcy, and mediation. If you are looking for an experienced West Virginia personal injury attorney, contact us today.