Road Fork Mine Contesting Penalties Assessed After May Belt Fire
Posted by Ellen Smith on October 16, 2012
Alpha Natural Resources’ Road Fork Mine is contesting over $250,000 in penalties assessed for citations and orders stemming from a May 18 belt fire at the Pineville, W.Va. mine.
The mine was hit with 11 – 104(d)(2) orders after MSHA found that CO detectors were not calibrated, belt slippage detectors not installed properly, and fire suppression systems with battery back-up systems inoperable.
With some orders eerily reminiscent of the Aracoma Mine fire that killed Ellery Hatfield and Donald Bragg in January 2006, MSHA also claims that in this case mine management did not follow proper emergency procedures and evacuate miners when an imminent danger existed. The superintendent of the Road Fork Mine, Lawrence Lester, was also the superintendent of the Alma No. 1 Mine when that fatal fire occurred in 2006, and the two miners died from smoke inhalation.
At the time of the May 18, 2012 incident, Alpha spokesperson Ted Pile said it wasn’t serious and the company handled the situation properly.
It was by chance that MSHA discovered the situation, when inspector Joey Wolford arrived in the morning for a regular inspection and found “ a lot of unusual activity in the offices. There were several miners in the hallway and he overheard a conversation about smoke underground,” and there was smoke in the belt entry and in the secondary escapeway, according to MSHA’s report.
Wolford asked if miners were being evacuated, and the General Mine Foreman, Selby Cook, said they were not withdrawing the miners at that time, but trying to determine the source of the smoke.
Minutes later, miners reported that the smoke was increasing, and Cook informed those miners to don SCSRs and leave by the primary escapeway. Since other miners were still located inby at the time, Wolford issued a verbal 107(a) imminent danger order to evacuate every miner not necessary to locate the source of the smoke.
During this time, mine foreman, Lacy Lusk, who was searching for the cause of the smoke, found that a belt at the 2D belt drive was severed due to wear and friction, and applied 3 bags of rock dust to the area. He remained in the area for about 30 minutes until he was told to evacuate.
Belt Sensors and CO Detectors Not Working
During the investigation, MSHA first found that a sensor installed for slip protection on the rollers was not connected for use. The cable from a senor was coiled up and hung near the control box.
While the mine had CO detectors, the detectors never alerted the surface to a problem. The smoke in the mine passed by five CO detectors that never went off, according to MSHA.
It turns out that some of the CO sensors had the same “location address,” causing the data to become corrupted, and the surface not being alerted to a problem. Once the sensor addresses were changed so each sensor had a separate identifying number or address, the alarm worked on the surface.
However, the mine’s log book showed that all of the CO monitors underground were properly calibrated on March 7, 2012, April 5, 2012 and May 12, 2012, for a total of 138 calibrations. However, when MSHA accessed the CO monitor’s computer-generate records from each calibration, there were only a total of 26 calibrations on the dates reported by company officials, and no calibrations performed on May 12 – six days before the incident. “This leaves 112 instances where the calibrations of these CO monitors were not performed properly on the dates indicated on the company’s records,” MSHA said.
Tracking System Backup Not Working
MSHA also found that when underground power was disconnected, the battery back-up units for the tracking system failed to operate. The tracking system is required to operate for 24 hours on battery back-up during a mine power-outage.
MSHA said it also found that the #2 working section was without any tracking capability for three days from May 16 – May 20.
Another problem was found with the Ansul dry chemical type fire suppression system installed to protect the 2D starter box. The battery on this was found discharged and inoperable. The company has already paid a $362 fine for this violation. A second problem found with the starter box involved an electrical violation where the 2D starter box should have an overload “trip” setting at 212 amps, and MSHA found the overload set to deenergize at 400 amps. The company paid a penalty of $946 for this violation.
Orders and Citations:
Citation #/ CFR # / Description/ Proposed MSHA Fine
#8151980 / 104(d)(2) order §75.1502 / §75.1502 / Failing to follow the approved mine emergency evacuation plan for not evacuating when thick smoke was reported. / $60,000
#8148366 / 104(d)(2) order §75.1102/ Failing to equip the 2D belt drive with an operable slippage sensor. /$17,301
#8148365 / 104(d)(2) order §75.1100-3 / Failing to have an operable carbon monoxide sensor installed within 100 feet of the 2D belt drive. /$20,302
#8148369/ 104(d)(2) order/§75.900/ Setting the overloads providing protection for the drive motor at 400 amps when it should have been set at 212 amps. / $946 (paid)
#8148368/ 104(a) citation §75.1100-3/ Failing to provide fire protection for the belt controls./$5,503
#8151981/ 104(a) citation §75.400 / Allowing combustible materials to accumulate on and around the 2D belt drive and take-up unit. /$18,271
#8148367/ 104(d)(2) order §75.512 / Failing to conduct an adequate examination of the 2D belt drive. /$27,959
#8151982 / 104(d)(2) order §75.400 /Allowing accumulations of combustible material along the 2C belt line. $60,000
#8151984/ 104(d)(2) order §75.362(b)/ Failing to conduct an adequate examination of the 2C belt line. /$20,302
#8151983/ 104(a) citation §75.1100-3 / Failing to maintain the fire suppression system protecting the 2B take-up power pack. / $362 (paid)
#8148364 / 104(d)(2) order §75.1103-8(a) / Failing to conduct a weekly examination of the fire detection system installed to protect the conveyor belts. / $17,301
#8151985 /104(d)(2) order §75.363(a) / Failing to correct hazardous conditions found and reported in the weekly airways examination book / $4,000
#7276701 /104(d)(2) order §75.1103-8(c) /Failure to calibrate CO monitors at least every 31 days. /Not assessed yet
#7276702/ 104(d)(2) order Mine Act 316(b) / Failing to follow the approved ERP, providing required tracking, and 24 hours of battery back-up / Not assessed yet