Affinity suspends operation due to safety problem

THE Pocahontas Coal Affinity operation in southern West Virginia has been shut down amid a potential problem with the mine’s seals.

Donna Schmidt

West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training said safety issues with seals at the mine in Sophia, Raleigh County, forced the idle but it was working in tandem with the operator to find a solution.

“An OMHS&T inspector was onsite doing a routine inspection when mine officials found a potential problem with the set of seals,” spokesperson Leslie Fitzwater said, adding that the inspector assisted in an evacuation of all personnel.

“The OMHS&T has issued a control order to keep the mine closed until the company fixes the problem.

“Affinity is working with the OMHS&T and MSHA to correct the problem and get the mine up and running safely as soon as possible.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, the mine remains offline.

Last week, the Affinity mine was one of three operations hit with the US Mine Safety and Health Administration’s first pattern-of-violations notices since the agency instituted new outlines for federal POV rules in March.

The rules became official on March 25 and improve federal officials’ capabilities when a POV is encountered under the mandates of Section 104(e) of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977.

MSHA said its POV review included all of the nation’s 14,600 mines and it was still reviewing injury records for several mines to determine if more mines should be added to its POV list and receive notification.

Federal inspectors said 124 significant and substantial violations were issued to the mine during the review period.

A quarter of those involved high negligence or reckless disregard for the health and safety of miners.

“Two miners died in separate accidents during the review period,” officials said.

“The fatalities occurred within two weeks of each other and both involved scoops.

“Affinity mine received 35 closure orders during the review period, the third highest in the country.”

Under the Mine Act, MSHA is authorised to issue a POV notice to mine operators that demonstrate a disregard for the health and safety of miners through a pattern of S&S violations.

POV notices are reserved for mines posing the greatest risk to miner safety.