MSHA administrator Ray McKinney told Associated Press that the agency had completed the underground portion of its investigation and that only one area, its Two Left section where the fatal explosion was thought to have occurred, would remain closed.
The resumption of operations at the International Coal Group (ICG) mine, McKinney added, would begin with two shifts this week.
While the cause of the explosion is not yet known, McKinney said last Friday during a media conference that “the source of the event” was near the seals. He added that MSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health would be working together on a test of seals at NIOSH’s Lake Lynn Experimental Mine in Fairchance, Pennsylvania.
The staff at the Sago mine, an 800,000 tonne per annum operation, continued to work on areas classified as dangerous before the reopening, according to Reuters. Additionally, MSHA lead investigators told reporters last week that more than 45 personal interviews with employees and management had already been conducted.
In related news, Massey Energy’s Aracoma Coal Alma No. 1 mine – where two workers died after a conveyor belt fire – has been served with 107 new mine safety violations. The Melville, West Virginia operation, according to AP, was cited 77 times for significant and substantial safety violations and five times for items MSHA inspectors considered an “unwarrantable failure” (D Orders) on the part of the company to comply with regulations.
As of March 11, the news service said, no monetary penalties had been assigned to the violations, which include problems with training, electrical equipment, roof control issues, fire detection, ventilation and mine escapeway regulations. In addition, MSHA records show that two citations given for combustibles accumulation and three additional citations for improper ventilation prior to the accident had not been addressed.
The Sago accident, which occurred January 2, killed 12 workers and one who was seriously injured continues his recovery. The Aracoma fire occurred January 19 and took two lives.