Pennsylvania conducts surprise inspections

SAFE conditions were found at Pennsylvania’s two active operations utilising retreat mining after an unannounced review, the state Department of Environmental Resources said Tuesday.

Donna Schmidt

The visits were ordered by Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell following last week’s incident at the Crandall Canyon mine in Utah, according to DEP secretary Kathleen McGinty. The inspections, conducted Monday, occurred at Dana Mining's Titus mine in Greene County, a bituminous operation, and UAE’s Harmony anthracite complex in Columbia County.

“Governor Rendell has made the safety of Pennsylvania miners a priority,” McGinty noted of the plan’s impetus.

“These unannounced inspections provide an added measure of assurance that retreat mining is being conducted safely.”

Vital to the state checks is verification that an operation is in compliance with its approved roof control plan. While McGinty noted it considers longwall mining to be a form of retreat mining, Pennsylvania’s faces will not be included in the inspections because of its separate process.

She also said that the process of retreat mining is one that has diminished in the state in recent years because of economics as well as environmental issues.

“Retreat mining can lead to problems such as surface subsidence and other mining methods, such as longwall mining, have proven to be more profitable,” McGinty said.

She said the DEP is aggressive in its state checks of Pennsylvania’s active mines to ensure continued safety for workers.

“All Pennsylvania bituminous mines are inspected quarterly and all underground anthracite mines are inspected every two months," she said.

The governor, she noted, is working to strengthen the state’s mine safety legislation and has made the topic a staple of its fall session.

“Since taking office, Governor Rendell has implemented a series of changes to enhance mine safety in Pennsylvania, including revised mine permitting and inspection procedures, more stringent requirements for verification of underground mine maps and improved training protocols for mine safety personnel,” the agency said.