R&D mine shut down after fatality probe

THE Pennsylvania state regulator has closed down R&D Coal Company’s Buck Mountain Slope Mine, after investigations found that the fatal explosion in October last year may have been prevented if a similar explosion at the mine in 2004 had been dealt with correctly.

Staff Reporter

Deputy Secretary for Mineral Resources Management Jay Scott Roberts said the owners and operators of the mine had been unwilling to operate in compliance with state regulations, and “have shown a disregard for the safety and wellbeing of the miners and their families.”

Following investigations into the 2004 and 2006 explosions, the Department of Environmental Protection has ordered R&D Coal Company to immediately close and seal the mine and begin reclamation of the site.

During the DEP investigation into the recent explosion, former employees of the mine came forward with new information about the 2004 explosion that injured four miners, which led regulators to conclude that the two explosions were very similar and that circumstances of the first accident had been misrepresented by mine management.

The investigation of the October methane explosion that fatally injured miner Dale Reightler has identified several violations of Pennsylvania law that likely caused the fatal accident, including:

  • Allowing miners who did not have miner certification to blast rock or coal;
  • Failure of the mine foreman to conduct a proper pre-shift examination of the mine;
  • Failure to adequately measure methane gas levels before detonating explosives;
  • Mining more than 60 feet in advance of the last open crosscut (or air current); and
  • The use of unconfined shots, which is believed to have ignited methane when the shot was fired.

Following the October incident, DEP and federal regulators shut down all mining at the site and later suspended the mine officials’ certificates for three miners involved in the accident, which prevents them from acting in an official capacity in any Pennsylvania mine. Those suspensions remain in effect.

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