The mines have petitioned the US Mine Safety and Health Administration requesting they not be required to provide an additional SCSR device, or SCSRs on mantrips or mobile equipment and in alternate and primary escapeways.
The petitioners said an SCSR has never been used in an anthracite mine and no statistical data existed to support the need to use an SCSR; the potential hazard which would require wearing an SCSR and travelling the escapeway did not exist; and there was no hazard scenario where travelling the escapeway with an SCSR would be likely.
“The travel time on foot from the working face through the primary escapeway is less than fifteen minutes. The petitioners further state that, historically, fires in anthracite mines have not been a significant hazard, as a result of the low volatile matter of the coal, which is reflected in numerous granted petitions for modification relating to firefighting.”
The state of Pennsylvania has separate regulations for bituminous and anthracite operators, but the federal rules do not make this distinction.
Not listed in the petitioners’ reasons, but sure to be a factor, is the cost of additional SCSRs. According to a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette report, the cost of a single SCSR is about $US650 and the small anthracite operations can make less than $25,000 a year.
The petition may come under fire by the United Mine Workers of America, which has been a staunch advocate for the increased safety measures.
“If you are underground and have the potentiality of being deprived of oxygen because of a fire, a flood or closure, you should have access to an emergency oxygen supply. I don't care what you're mining," UMWA District 2 international vice-president Ed Yankovich told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
The petition is currently under review by MSHA and is open to public comment until November 6.
The petitioning mines include Schuylkill County’s Orchard Slope, RS & W Slope, and Primrose Slope; Northumberland County’s No. 1 and No. 2 Slope Mines; and Dauphin County’s Buck Mountain Slope Mine.