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 Post subject: Government-Mandated Tracking Systems Put Miners in Danger
PostPosted: Fri Sep 11, 2009 5:29 am 
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Local Miners: Government-Mandated Tracking Systems Put Miners in Danger

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Jacqueline Dormer/staff photo Miners, from center clockwise, Mike Aukstakalnis, Alfred Brown Coal Co., New Philadelphia; Alfred Brown, Alfred Brown Coal Co.; Randy Rothermel, RS&W Coal Co, Pottsville; Rich Olaf, West Point Mining, Mount Carmel; and Chris Kerstetter, Bear Gap Coal Co., Treverton, listen during the Independent Miners and Associates meeting Wednesday in Tremont.


BY DUSTIN PANGONIS
POTTSVILLE REPUBLICAN & HERALD
September 11, 2009

TREMONT - Some area miners say they may refuse to implement federally-mandated personal tracking and communication systems, arguing the devices have been poorly tested and could actually put anthracite coal miners at more risk.

The mines must submit a set of plans to the Mine Safety and Health Administration today, but worry the wireless communication devices could interfere with electronic detonators used in mine blasting and cause premature explosions.

The mandate is part of the MINER Act, an overhaul of federal mining regulations passed by Congress in June 2006.

"They want all these miners to put a tracking and communication system in," Mike Rothermel, president of Summit Anthracite, said at a Wednesday meeting of the Independent Miners & Association, an affiliation of small, independently-owned mines, at 44 N. Crescent St. "It's going to be a personal device. They're going to keep it with them at all times."

Three years from the Act's enactment, mines are required to submit a plan providing for "a wireless two-way medium, and provide for an electronic tracking system permitting surface personnel to determine the location of any persons trapped underground" for MSHA approval.

The problem, miners said at Wednesday's meeting, is that potential interference with electronic explosives detonators has not been sufficiently studied.

Amy Louviere, a spokeswoman for the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration, who was out of her office until Monday, could not be reached for comment.

Miners say using the wireless devices conflict with many existing safety regulations.

Dyno Nobel Inc., an explosives manufacturer, says no personal communication equipment - including cell phones and hand-held radios - should be used when blasting with electric detonators, whether on or off.

The Institute of Explosive Makers requires a minimum separation of five feet, miners said, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations require 300 feet.

Rothermel said a recent MSHA test showed the equipment induces a current on the electric blasting circuit.

"Their test results showed that it wasn't sufficient to initiate the blast," Rothermel said. "But holy heck, if it put some on, that's probably too much."

He compared using the devices near detonators to using a cell phone during an airplane's take-off or landing - studies show it probably won't cause an accident, but it's "just not worth the risk."

That test did not use live explosives, Rothermel said. Additionally, he said, MSHA told them there had only been one recorded accident involving premature detonation of an electric detonator involving wireless communication devices.

"In half an hour on the Internet, (my wife) Cindy found four," Mike Rothermel said.

Cindy Rothermel provided reports for these accidents, the earliest of which was in 1993, and the most serious of which included a fatality.

These discrepancies have left the miners skeptical about the government's claims, feeling "misled or lied to."

At the heart of this and other problems, miners say, is that anthracite and bituminous coal are regulated jointly at the federal level, despite differences between the two types of coal and their industries.

The MINER Act allows for "alternative means of compliance" in cases where "provisions can not be adopted." Miners, however, say they have already submitted alternate plans, which were rejected by MSHA.

The miners outlined what they believed were the two types of plans they could submit.

First, they could submit plans to implement the wireless equipment - an option that most of the miners in attendance laughed at.

Alternately, they could submit similar plans to the ones already rejected - which will not include the new systems - and wait for either fines or mine closures by MSHA, at which point they could take the issue to the court.

Those attending - fewer than 20 - were not optimistic about their ability to fight MSHA.

"They have a wealth of resources, and we're just a bunch of hicks, to put it bluntly" Cindy Rothermel said.

In 2006, The U.S. Senate passed the MINER Act by unanimous consent, meaning no formal vote was taken. U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter was in office at time, while U.S. Sen. Bob Casey had not yet been elected. U.S. Rep. Tim Holden, D-17, voted in favor of the Act.

State Rep. Tim Seip, D-125, who has previously helped set up meetings between the miners and Holden, Specter and Casey, attended Wednesday's meeting.

"It's very ironic that federal regulations that are supposed to make things safer make them much more dangerous," Seip said.

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Last edited by miket145 on Fri Sep 11, 2009 8:40 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 11, 2009 5:58 am 
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Location: Within 60 Miles of the Northern Anthracite Field
:lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: there he is big bad mike a! seriously though this is a big deal right now and threatens every single remaining deep anthracite mine in pa. this very well just could be the end of them.

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 11, 2009 10:38 am 
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Location: West Virginia
Don't feel bad MSHA and the State has the mines I was working for shut down right now because of the emergency shelters.

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 11, 2009 10:10 pm 
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Location: Dunmore, PA
I forwarded a copy of the article along with a letter of my own to the editor & general desks of the Scranton Times urging them to print the story, this needs more coverage. Nothing will change if they think people are for it, voice your concern. Let your local newspapers know of this and congressmen.


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 12, 2009 12:38 pm 
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MIKE A YOUR FAMOUS ! HAHAHA YOULL SHOW THEM WHOSE BOSS !


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Sep 13, 2009 5:32 pm 
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What can I say, the photographer took a picture of the good looking side of the room! I was at almost every meeting the IMA had over MSHA's latest and greatest idea. Were not done with this yet, this should be before the courts shortly, very shortly! In typical Federal Government fashion they have to write a citation for non compliance first than it could go to court. Being this a Federal Law you can't apply for a petition for modification as you would if you felt part of the CFR didn't apply to your situation. So hang on folks it's going to get interesting! The best thing is there is some leeway in the Miner Act for problems like this but thats left up to the discretion of the district manager and we have...........well lets put it this way, we may not have em all but we have the best here at the head of District 1!

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