CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Federal inspectors last week issued nearly a dozen serious enforcement orders after finding major ventilation and roof control violations at a Massey Energy mine in Boone County.
U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration inspectors issued 11 "closure orders" during a Sept. 28 review at Massey subsidiary Elk Run Coal Co.'s Seng Creek Powellton Mine.
MSHA chief Joe Main issued a news release to announce the enforcement actions, but his agency did not immediately make public copies of the orders issued to Elk Run.
In the news release, MSHA said its inspectors discovered illegal extended cuts into coal. MSHA said extended cuts -- those longer than those typically allowed by safety rules -- can boost productivity, but also increase coal dust accumulations that can contribute to explosions.
In addition, MSHA inspectors found that many areas of the same mining section were "without adequate ventilation while these excessive cuts were being taken, exposing miners to the risk of explosions and black lung."
MSHA also said the mine foreman admitted he had not been taking air monitor readings during the shift. The foreman also allowed ventilation curtains to be rolled up against the mine roof, short-circuiting air flow, so that mining equipment could be more easily accessed.
"In one particular area, suspended coal dust was so thick it was difficult to determine the proximity of the massive continuous mining machine," MSHA said in its news release.
Massey's safety practices have been under increasing scrutiny since April 5, when an explosion at the company's Upper Big Branch Mine in Raleigh County killed 29 workers. It was the worst U.S. coal-mining disaster in 40 years.