Magazine article Risk Management

Mining for Disaster

Magazine article Risk Management

Mining for Disaster

Article excerpt

Across the globe, major mining disasters were a serious issue in 2010. From Montcoal, West Virginia, to Yuzhou, China, hundreds--possibly thousands--have perished while working deep below the earth's surface. Each disaster brings to light the unsafe working conditions in many mines, both in the United States and abroad. To address safety at American mining sites, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) developed a targeted inspection program for those with troubling safety records. In September alone, MSHA issued an unprecedented 550 violations and 11 closure orders during surprise inspections. "We are continuing to find serious threats to miners' safety and health," said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of" labor for mine safety and health. "While some operators are finally getting the message, others are not."

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April 2010

On April 5, the Massey Energy-owned Upper Big Branch mine in Montcoal, West Virginia, exploded, killing 29 of the 31 miners at the site. The accident, the worst in the United States since Kentucky's Finley Coal Company disaster in 1970, was blamed on high levels of methane, which caused the explosion after a spark was generated from the mine's mantrip, the shuttle used to transport workers through the mine. The tragedy brought to light Massey's track of safety violations and fatalities. In 2009, Massey Energy was fined $382,000 for serious violations, some in reference to improper ventilation. In the month before the explosion, authorities cited the mine for 57 safety infractions, and the day before the explosion, the mine received two additional citations. The Upper Big Branch coal mine disaster put a critical spotlight on the inadequacies of worker safety in U.S. mines.

May 2010

Just before midnight on May 8, an explosion occurred at Russia's largest underground coal mine near Kemerovo Oblast, due to a buildup of methane gas. The mine, owned by Russian coal company Raspadskaya, had a history of safety violations and deaths. In March 2001, a methane explosion killed four miners and injured six, and in January 2010 one worker was killed after a partial mine collapse. The most recent explosion killed 66, making it the deadliest Russian mine incident since 110 people were killed by a methane blast at a mine in the coal-rich Kemerovo region in 2007. …

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