MSHA to pick-up mine visits after rash of fatal accidents

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Two mining deaths last week in West Virginia are part of the reason why the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration has decided to remind mining operations of best safety practices.

Jeannette Galanis

In a call with stakeholders Wednesday, MSHA Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy Jeannette Galanis said the agency would have a renewed focused on powered haulage and rollover policies.

“We are taking this very seriously,” Galanis told mine operators.

Trenten Dille, 26, of Littleton, died June 2 at the Marion County Coal Resources mine near Fairview in Marion County when he was struck by the rib of a coal support pillar. Nicholas David Adkins, 43, of Racine died June 3 when he was struck by an underground shuttle car at the Marfork Coal’s Horse Creek Eagle Mine in Raleigh County.

Shuttle car operations are considered powered haulage.

There have been 15 mining deaths in the U.S. this year. Seven of those deaths were related to both surface and underground powered haulage situations, MSHA acting administrator for enforcement Sam Pierce said.

“We already know this has been a hard year from our industry and as we continue to see our fatal accidents continue to rise so we feel we need to do something,” Pierce said.

MSHA will “reinvigorate” its powered haulage initiative that it first implemented in 2018, according to MSHA Deputy Administrator for Enforcement Tim Watkins.

“In the very near future our enforcement personnel along with specialists from our educational field and small mine services will be visiting mines to discuss these accidents and the best practices associated with them,” Watkins said.

MSHA inspectors will bring with them a newly designed powered haulage sticker for miners and two informational fliers. One will deal with powered haulage accidents and the other with rollover accidents, Watkins said.

Pierce said the visits will include discussions about best practices.

“We feel like one fatality is too many but when there’s 15 it’s telling us we need to do something different,” he said.

Galanis said MSHA has relaxed some of its COVID provisions allowing for the mine visits.

“We will be allowing our small mine training teams to visit small mines now,” she said.

The West Virginia accidents remain under investigation by both MSHA and the West Virginia Office of Mine Safety Health and Training.

Both Dille and Adkins were mine foremen.

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