Recently Massey Energy joined other companies and a federal agency in the demonstration of a technological breakthrough in mine safety that promises to save dozens of lives in the industry. The new technology is a ‘proximity detection system’ developed for use on continuous mining machines. The system detects the presence of coal miners and automatically shuts down continuous mining machines when coal miners are too close to the machines and in danger of being pinned or crushed.
There have been at least 29 fatal accidents caused by miners being too close to continuous mining machines since the 1980s. Massey Energy began exploring the concept of proximity detection in the 1990s at the direction of Don L. Blankenship, Massey Energy Chairman and CEO. Initially, the project encountered technological obstacles, but over the last four years Massey Energy COO Chris Adkins led an effort to push the technology into completion.
"We were pleased to spearhead this effort," said Blankenship. "Massey Energy has long been a recognized leader in safety innovation and we have developed that reputation by developing pragmatic solutions to identifiable problems. The proximity detection system exemplifies our philosophy and we are very proud of it." "We are grateful to the others involved in helping to move this technology forward," said Adkins. "Nautilus International, Joy Manufacturing and numerous federal safety agency personnel embraced the project and provided a great deal of expertise and assistance. It will be impossible to measure the number of lives this technology will save, but we know our efforts will make a dramatic impact on mine safety."
The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has approved the proximity detection system for use and Massey Energy plans to use it on its continuous mining machines.