SCSR push debated

MIXED reactions abound in the industry following an announcement late last week that the US Mine Safety and Health Administration plans to push SCSR makers to ramp up production levels and ship units based on need level.
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Photo courtesy of Rob Mayfield.

Donna Schmidt

According to the Associated Press, the agency is also looking to push the producers to deliver the units to the mines needing them most as a first priority.

One miner told International Longwall News that, while he agrees that more packs are needed – especially in the smaller operations of the Appalachian region, his concern lies with quality control from the speed increase manufacturers would have to make in order to ramp up what’s being shipped out.

A Pennsylvania consultant agreed: “If the Government were able to do something to help increase production, it would be beneficial. As it is, simply mandating increased production will do nothing more than jeopardise the quality of the equipment.”

He said it is like the old phrase of “being between a rock and a hard place”.

“Which is worse – not having the equipment or having faulty equipment? In my mind, not having the equipment is dangerous; having faulty equipment is deadly,” he said.

West Virginia Coal Association senior vice-president Chris Hamilton told ILN one thing would aid the industry in getting both the required packs in quickly while still having the superior focus on quality: collaboration.

“I think this calls for increased cooperation among MSHA, state and regulatory agencies, and SCSR manufacturers,” Hamilton said.

He also said that the reasoning behind the agency’s push was a reasonable one. “On the surface, I support what MSHA is doing,” he said and added that the WVCA is reviewing the announcement.

In terms of how the pack distribution should be handled, his thoughts again mirror those of the MSHA. Before anything else, he said: “We should make sure first that every miner has more than one [SCSR unit].”

Beyond that, he said, it will be driven highly by the size and complexity of each mine. With some mines having 10:1 ratios for packs, “it’s absolutely critical to get two, maybe three per miner” before looking further, such as at cache supplies.

The ratio imbalance from mine to mine is a reality, Hamilton said, and in the field it must be more appropriately equalled out. However, that collaboration between mining producers and government regulators must exist for the plan to be executed efficiently.

“We should not, under any circumstances, compromise quality control here,” he said, adding that there needs to be a form of “zero tolerance” policy of quality control for both producers and mines.

West Virginia, he said, is a good example of that, with ongoing efforts being made in the area of regular pack checks at mines. “We’re taking great strides in that area,” Hamilton said.

He also said he is confident in the increased scrutiny of mine operators, miners and producers to ensure every pack is at the ready.

He said that levelling out ratios of SCSR availability from mine to mine “is going to take a lot more work for everyone,” but that once that minimum ratio is reached across the board, all mines can ramp up cache storage and other rescuer needs from the same starting point, whether their payroll be in the dozens or in the hundreds.

National Mining Association representative Bruce Watzman told the AP that it was important to note progress was being made on delivery from all producers, including the top three: CSE, Ocenco and Draeger Safety.

“No one in the supply chain or delivery chain is trying to intentionally delay the delivery,” Watzman said.