West Virginia SCSR violators face closure

THE West Virginia state mining office has taken the necessary steps to reprimand nearly 30 of its operations out of compliance with its self-contained self-rescuer cache rule – through planned citations and even a temporary closure.

Donna Schmidt

Late last week, the state Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training issued a citation idling the Beckley Crystal Mine, owned by Baylor Mining, for what it called “failure to comply with the state’s requirements” on SCSR caches.

Specifically, according to spokeswoman Caryn Gresham, plans initially expected to be filed by operations throughout the state with required compliance dates were beginning to undergo amendments.

“The amendments invariably were to the compliance dates that they, the operators, had previously set,” she said. “These compliance dates were being changed because the manufacturers were changing their delivery dates.”

This past January, the office delivered a letter to operators mandating that no changes to initial dates be submitted and, on January 8, officially froze the details mines had submitted. State inspectors were then ordered to issue non-compliance citations, giving mines six weeks from that date to become compliant.

After giving Beckley Crystal an additional six days beyond the six-week deadline while it determines its course of action, Gresham said the agency issued a “failure to abate withdrawal order”, essentially idling the mine until compliance could be met.

“The SCSR units that are required for the caches are those units that West Virginia law now requires all operating underground mines to have available to underground mine employees at specific intervals throughout a working mine,” Gresham explained in an interview with International Longwall News.

“Mines that fail to a) provide inventory information or b) establish and maintain caches are issued violations and all violations include mandatory fines.”

The operator has since contacted the office, Gresham said, to report the incoming delivery of its units, and as of press time state officials had planned a site visit to reopen the complex.

However, the problem suffered by Beckley Crystal stands to happen again, repeatedly, with as many as 30 more operations facing the same scenario.

“A review shows there are about 30 mines in the state whose deadlines will come up within the next week and that could, upon inspection, be cited and have all or a portion of their mines closed until the SCSR caches are in place,” Gresham said.

“The office is working closely with the industry to ensure that they meet the compliance requirements and that the agency will take into consideration the good faith efforts of the mine operators before determining whether a mine will be closed.”

Gresham noted that, much like federal regulators, the WVOMHST uses a point system to assess violation level and penalties on a case-by-case basis.

“That system determines a fine based on the points assessed for such things as size of the mine, degree of negligence, degree of good faith effort, ability to stay open among other things,” she said.

The state is currently “trying to work out the bugs” on a computerised tally system for cache inventories, much like MSHA’s recently implemented reporting system.

“MHST is hoping to work with MSHA to dovetail the state’s report in with the federal report, allowing all of the reporting to be done in a manner that is consistent and similar across the board,” Gresham said.

It was previously reported that no extensions would be given to mines for manufacturing delays on the part of the units’ producers.

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