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MSHA warns of winter mining dangers

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Federal mine safety regulators are warning that the arrival of colder winter weather can be deadly in the coal industry.

The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration wants miners and mine operators to be alert for the numerous hazards that cold weather typically brings to mining operations around the country.

"We know this season will bring weather that causes changes in the mining environment and can present certain dangers for working miners," said MSHA chief Joe Main. "We also know that there are precautions mine operators can take to alleviate these hazards and prevent accidents."

Low humidity and low barometric pressures, combined with seasonal drying of many areas in underground coal mines, have been major factors in past mine explosions. Colder weather also brings other potential hazards, such as limited visibility, icy haulage roads and walkways, and the freezing and thawing of highwalls at surface mines, which can make them unstable.

This winter, MSHA is encouraging miners and mine operators to take specific actions that can prevent serious accidents. MSHA is asking, for example, that mine operators ensure that snow and ice in travelways are removed, salt and sand applied where needed, and highwalls frequently examined for stability.

In underground coal mines, operators should make certain there is adequate ventilation, should apply liberal amounts of rock dust, conduct frequent and thorough examinations, and be familiar with emergency procedures that prevent ignitions and explosions.

Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kward@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.


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