Tag Archives: MSHA

MSHA looks to accelerate tech uptake in underground ‘gassy’ mines

The US Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has proposed revisions to its standards that could speed up the testing of electric motor-driven mine equipment and accessories in underground “gassy” mines in the country.

Under the proposed rule, during a one-year transition period, mine operators could use equipment and accessories that meet either 14 voluntary consensus standards (VCS) or the existing MSHA approval requirements.

After that period, operators would be required to use the consensus standards for equipment and accessories covered by consensus standards, MSHA said.

“The proposed rule would improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the product approval process and promote the use of innovative technologies for improved mine safety and health,” it added.

Rich Nolan, National Mining Association president and CEO, said the industry had long advocated for updates to the standards.

“Current standards have resulted in a backlog of superior technologies awaiting MSHA approvals, even as those technologies are being used successfully in mines elsewhere around the world or by other occupations in the US,” he said.

“The proposed updates will allow us to provide the best available protection for miners through a more efficient and effective process.

“Put simply, this translates into people being safer sooner.”

The 14 VCS have been developed by the American National Standards Institute, the International Society of Automation, UL LLC and the International Electrotechnical Commission. They contain general and specific construction and testing requirements for equipment used in explosive gas atmospheres, explosive dust atmospheres or hazardous locations. The agency will accept tests from these organisations in lieu of MSHA’s standards, the NMA said.

Examples of equipment covered by the regulations include portable two-way radios, remote control units, longwall mining systems, portable oxygen detectors, miner-wearable components for proximity detection systems, and powered air-purifying respirators.

“NMA and its members have tenaciously worked for this change to streamline the process by which MSHA approves and certifies equipment for use in gassy mines,” the NMA said.

(Photo courtesy of Peabody Energy Inc)

Paringa Resources in ramp-up mode at Poplar Grove coal mine

Paringa Resources says production ramp-up at its Poplar Grove coal mine in the Illinois Coal Basin of Kentucky, US, has begun with the commencement of higher productivity, continuous underground mining operations.

Raw coal is being brought to the surface and has been processed by Poplar Grove’s coal handling preparation plant (CHPP), the company reported.

The commencement of mining using company-operated equipment follows approval from the US Mining Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) for the recently amended development ventilation scheme, the company said.

Mining to date at Poplar Grove has been undertaken by Paringa’s mining contractor as part of the bottom development using drill and blast techniques. These development activities have included creating a void for the installation of underground infrastructure at the bottom of the slope and a turnout area to enable the efficient movement of underground mining equipment. “This mining activity has produced raw coal which has been run through the CHPP as part of the testing and commissioning of the surface infrastructure,” Paringa said.

The mining contractor’s last piece of work is to undertake 80 ft (24 m) of development mining via drill and blast over the next month, which will occur in tandem with Paringa’s operational teams.

The next underground mining development activity is the connection of the return and intake air shafts to establish the permanent ventilation system. The connection is being made by Paringa-owned continuous miners in the coal seam, from the turnout to the base of the intake shaft and then to the base of the return shaft. This mining is producing raw coal for processing and subsequent sale to Paringa’s cornerstone customer LG&E. Paringa commenced this activity using the recently commissioned company-operated mining equipment, it said.

Paringa said: “The bottom area ground conditions look good with slightly less water and a more competent roof than was expected, although initial mining with the continuous miner has encountered an area of very hard rock which will slow advancement marginally only in the very near term.

“Once the permanent ventilation system has been established, the company will commence a typical underground room and pillar mining sequence. All other underground infrastructure, including the bottom sump, temporary slope belt tailpiece and tramp iron magnet, will be commissioned in the coming month to enable the commissioning of the ventilation system needed to begin the room and pillar mining sequence, subject to customary MSHA permanent ventilation system approvals.

The company is targeting delivery of first processed coal to LG&E in the second half of March, and has progressed initial shipments activities, including a 2019 shipping schedule and invoicing and payment procedures.

On surface, the CHPP is fully commissioned and has been run several times, processing raw material from the mine, with feed comprised of raw coal and waste rock material, Paringa said. “The proportion of raw coal in the plant feed will significantly increase in the coming weeks as mining activities continue using the company operated continuous miner in the coal seam as part of establishing the permanent ventilation system.”

Initial raw coal stockpile development has commenced using material produced by company-operated mining equipment, conveyed from the underground mine portal to the preparation plant stockpile area.

All other surface infrastructure including the workshops, bath house and river dock has been commissioned.

MSHA checking up on coal dust in US mines

The US Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) is re-examining its own coal dust rule to see if it is providing miners with the necessary protection they need.

MSHA, via a request for information (RFI) in the Federal Register, is soliciting comments, data, and information from industry, labour, the US Department of Health and Human Services’ National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and other stakeholders related to the rule entitled ‘Lowering Miners’ Exposure to Respirable Coal Mine Dust, Including Continuous Personal Dust Monitors’.

The organisation is also seeking information and data on engineering controls and best practices that mine operators find effective to achieve and maintain required respirable coal mine dust levels, particularly those practices that can be replicated throughout mines nationwide to achieve similar results.

MSHA said: “Due to the significant latency period between exposure and disease, MSHA anticipates the agency will not likely be able to fully evaluate the health effects of the rule for a decade or more.”

David Zatezalo, MSHA Assistant Secretary, said the study had been initiated to determine if the rule was meeting its intended result, and warned mining companies that the organisation had “no intention of rolling back the protections afforded to coal miners under the final dust rule”.

The new rule, which originally took effect on August 1, 2014 and has since been updated, sought to:

  • Lower the concentration of dust in the air that miners breathe and improve sampling practices
    to better reflect actual working conditions and protect all miners from overexposure
  • Increase sampling and make use of cutting-edge technology developed for the mining environment to provide real-time information about dust levels
  • Provide a common sense phase-in over a two-year period to give the industry the time it needs to
    adjust to the new requirements, acquire monitoring equipment, and obtain compliance
    assistance from MSHA.

On August 1, 2016, Phase three of MSHA’s respirable dust rule went into effect. This saw the concentration limits for respirable coal mine dust lowered from 2 mg per m³ of dust to 1.5 mg/m³ at underground and surface coal mines, and the concentration limits for respirable coal mine dust lowered from 1 mg/m³ to 0.5 mg/m³ for intake air at underground mines and for part 90 miners (coal miners who have evidence of the development of pneumoconiosis).