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 Post subject: Federal mining authorities: new tracking systems safe
PostPosted: Tue Sep 22, 2009 6:07 pm 
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Joined: Tue Jun 03, 2008 7:12 pm
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Location: Harrisburg, PA (or in the coal fields)
Federal mining authorities: new tracking systems safe
Published: September 22, 2009

BY DUSTIN PANGONIS

In response to concerns from area miners, federal mining officials said last week they are confident new federally mandated wireless personal tracking and communication systems are safe for use in anthracite coal mines.

"Unfortunately, we've lost miners that we felt we could have saved if we had a tracking and communication system in place ... we feel that in the long run this will make the miners safer," said Kevin Stricklin, administrator for coal mine safety and health with the Mine Safety and Health Administration.

In a telephone interview, Stricklin and David Chirdon, MSHA new technology program manager, responded to concerns expressed at an Independent Miners and Associates meeting earlier this month in Tremont.

Miners said wireless equipment could interfere with electronic detonators used in mine blasting and cause premature explosions. Stricklin said a July test of the wireless equipment determined it did not induce enough current on the blasting circuits to cause explosives to detonate.

"The highest reading we got was less than one-tenth of the figure it takes to detonate explosives," Chirdon said.

Miners were also concerned because the test did not use live explosives, which Chirdon said should be avoided when unnecessary.

"We know what current it takes to detonate an explosive, so determining what current was induced on the blasting circuit was sufficient to determine whether the explosives would be detonated or not," Chirdon said.

Miners had also said MSHA told them of only one recorded accident involving premature detonation of an electronic detonator involving wireless communication devices, but the IMA's research turned up several other similar accidents. Chirdon said MSHA was aware of the accidents in question, and had expressed this knowledge.

However, Chirdon said, those explosions could be attributed to factors unrelated to the wireless equipment.

Some of the accidents involved additional "unsafe practices," Chirdon said, including the use of radios with a greater field strength than the wireless equipment. In one case, a cell phone call caused an explosion. Some explosions were in surface mining or non-mining blasting situations.

Because anthracite miners blast dozens of times a day, IMA miners were worried that it would be extremely difficult to carry the systems. Chirdon said there have been similar concerns by other mines with frequently blasting in places like Kentucky and West Virginia.

"In those cases, we're just asking the shotfirers to set their radios down and turn them off," Chirdon said.

Friday was the deadline for mines to submit a set of plans to MSHA concerning the implementation of the wireless equipment mandated in the MINER Act, passed into law in 2006.

Stricklin said the plans were originally due in mid-June, but the deadline was pushed back to allow for testing in response to miners' concerns and a request from the office of U.S. Rep. Tim Holden, D-17.

All 10 of the IMA-affiliated mines submitted plans proposing an alternative to the electronic tracking systems, IMA clerk Jane Maurer said.

The MINER Act allows for "alternative means of compliance" in cases where "provisions cannot be adopted."

"We're always open and receptive to anything anybody would submit," Stricklin said. "But it would be a hard sell for them to submit something other than the best technology available now."

Stricklin said the mines would not face immediate fines or closures if their plan is rejected.

Rather, Stricklin said, MSHA would send a rejection letter to the company with a list of deficiencies in the plan, and give a "reasonable amount of time" for a response.

If the mines and MSHA cannot come to an agreement after future discussion, Stricklin said, the mines can bring the issue before the courts.

"Now that we've received something from them, we'll begin working with them to try to get a plan in place that we feel will protect the miners," Stricklin said.


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 22, 2009 6:46 pm 
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Joined: Mon Jul 09, 2007 5:11 pm
Posts: 899
Location: NEPA
See I told you it wasn't over! First off MSHA very rarely comments publicly on anything the I.M.A. says or does. Secondly they very rarely respond in a civil manor, and Third and foremost all of a sudden they admit that oh yea buy the way there were a couple of accidents were radio might have been a factor but were not sure! The thing that hurts is that if I wanted this damn thing in my mine with out them requiring it they would never have let it be installed here but since they want it the risk of setting off explosives is a non issue. The fact that it isn't safe enough for them to test it with live caps proves something. I'm glad I'm not the one that has to have this responsibilty on his sholders when, not if, something happens.

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 22, 2009 8:03 pm 
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Joined: Fri Jul 15, 2005 2:34 pm
Posts: 6906
Location: Within 60 Miles of the Northern Anthracite Field
yes i find it rather interesting that an inspector wont walk past one of those transponders with caps in his pocket......... :roll:

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