West Ridge longwall still down as company drops appeal: MSHA

DESPITE earlier reports that Murray Energy’s West Ridge operation was fully operational after being ordered idle, federal officials confirmed for ILN that that a closure order was modified, but not lifted, and the longwall remains under a shutdown order.
West Ridge longwall still down as company drops appeal: MSHA West Ridge longwall still down as company drops appeal: MSHA West Ridge longwall still down as company drops appeal: MSHA West Ridge longwall still down as company drops appeal: MSHA West Ridge longwall still down as company drops appeal: MSHA

The longwall face at West Ridge is approximately 750ft.

Donna Schmidt

According to US Mine Safety and Health Administration spokesperson Amy Louviere, a 103(k) closure order for the Utah operation was amended on Saturday but still remained in force for the mine’s longwall as of press time, Wednesday afternoon.

“It was only modified to permit a two-crosscut retreat to evaluate the effectiveness of the new [roof control] plan,” she said, adding that the retreat measures a total of about 240 feet of mining.

However, she did confirm that general production began again at West Ridge in Carbon County mine the evening of Sunday, February 8, due to the training MSHA officials required of mine crews.

“Once this [240ft] section is mined, MSHA will need to re-evaluate to determine the effectiveness of the company's plan,” she said.

MSHA also issued a separate 107(a) order Monday for methane issues in the bleeder, which was subsequently corrected and the order was lifted Tuesday morning.

Utah Office of Coal Ming Safety director Garth Nielsen was the first to confirm West Ridge’s recommencement of production Tuesday afternoon following a recent series of three seismic bounces.

The bumps occurred on January 24, January 26 and January 31, and each forced a temporary idling by order of the US Mine Safety and Health Administration. The final incident caused rib and lung injuries to a worker and resulted in an extended closure by the agency.

MSHA has not applied any fines to UAE for the three bounces.

Hearing cancelled

Murray Energy, owner of West Ridge controlling company UtahAmerican Energy, has dropped an appeal to a federal administrative judge against the final idling, MHSA representative Louviere told ILN on Wednesday.

As a result, a hearing scheduled for Thursday and Friday in Denver was cancelled.

Murray had appealed the citation, and asked the judge to lift the idling order, which required an updated roof control plan before mining could start again.

“West Ridge also withdrew its contests of the 103k orders MSHA issued the mine following the coal-burst accidents on January 26 and 31, 2009,” Louviere said.

MSHA and AUE/Murray Energy were initially to meet to discuss the second and third bounces before a federal administrative judge.

Specifically, Louviere said in a previous statement, the meeting was intended to address the producer’s failure to adopt a new mining plan as well as its resistance to maintaining barriers between panels.

West Ridge, located in south-central Utah’s Book Cliffs, employs more than 200 workers. It is currently working under about 2000ft of overburden.

UAE’s Tower operation was idled indefinitely in April 2008 amid safety issues.

Its Crandall Canyon mine was closed shortly after six workers and three rescuers were died there in August 2007.

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