Front Porch Blog

Regulators Ignore Warnings of ‘Intake Air’ Mine Blasts

The recent Montcoal disaster highlighted the need for stronger mining safety reforms in our coal mines. We will continue highlighting policies where we see a need for improvement.

We suggest following Ken Ward’s fantastic blog Coal Tattoo, and highly suggest reading all of his great piece in this Sunday’s Charleston Gazette. It included this staggering list of explosions occurring in intake airways, blamed on sparks from electrical equipment that was not explosion proof.

# March 9 and 11, 1976 — A total of 26 miners were killed in two explosions at the Scotia Mine in Letcher County, Ky. The first of the fatal blasts, which killed 15 miners, was blamed on sparks from a battery-powered locomotive used in an intake air tunnel.
# Nov. 7, 1980 — Five miners died in an explosion at Westmoreland Coal’s Ferrell No. 17 Mine near Uneeda, W.Va. Investigators trace the ignition to a locomotive used in an intake airway.
# June 21, 1983 — Seven miners are killed in an explosion at Clinchfield Coal Co.’s McClure No. 1 Mine at McClure, Va. The ignition was believed to have been caused by sparks from one of the following: A battery-powered mantrip, a circuit breaker, a dinner hole light connection, an electrical cable plug, or a cable for a conveyor belt feeder.
# July 4, 1983 — One miner is killed at Helen Mining Co.’s Homer City, Pa., Mine. Investigators blame arcing on mine vehicle controls.
# Feb. 16, 1984 — Three miners die in an explosion at Pennsylvania Mine Corp.’s Greenwich Collieries No. 1 Mine in Indiana County, Pa. Arcing of a battery powered locomotive is blamed.
# Dec. 26, 1987 — One miner dies in a methane and coal dust explosion at Double R Coal’s No. 1 Mine in Duty, Va. Investigators blame two power centers, a battery charging cable and a scoop vehicle.
# Sept. 13, 1989 — Ten miners died at Pyro Mining Co.’s Pyro No. 9 Slope William Station Mine at Wheatcroft, Ky. Investigators could not pinpoint whether the ignition occurred at the mine face or in the intake airway, but among the possible sources was a wire in the intake.
# Sept. 23, 2001 — Thirteen miners die in a series of explosions at the Jim Walter Resources No. 5 Mine in Brookwood, Ala. The two major explosions were linked to electrical equipment in the intake tunnels.

Sources: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration





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