Massey urges MSHA to reverse dust scrubber policy in coal mines

first_imgMassey Energy’s Chairman and CEO Don Blankenship has requested that MSHA (Mine Safety & Health Administration) reverse the agency’s practice of requiring the coal industry to turn off dust scrubbers on continuous mining machines. “We have urged you to reverse this practice as soon as possible and allow our coal miners to enjoy the benefits of one of the truly significant technological advances of the past 30 years – the scrubber – a device able to physically remove from the atmosphere up to 98% of the harmful dust generated in the mining process,” he wrote in his letter to Joe Main, Assistant Secretary for MSHA. IM‘s June leader discusses the recent mining disaster in Massey’s Upper Big Branch mine and how MSHA is aiming to prevent future accidents.This letter comes after the agency required that many Massey and other Central Appalachia mines turn off their scrubbers. Massey has strenuously objected in multiple instances. However, MSHA has continued this practice.Continuous miner machines have been equipped with a device called a ‘scrubber’ for many years. This device, much like a vacuum cleaner, sucks in dirty air from the area of the machine cutting coal and passes it through a filter prior to the scrubber exhausting the filtered air. This filtering of dusty air greatly reduces the dust remaining in the air so that the equipment operator breathes in cleaner air.The federal government’s research arm in the area of mine health and safety, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), has conducted a study that shows a coal miner working on a section where the scrubber is turned off may inhale up to 12 times as much respirable dust as when the scrubber is on.“Currently, 62 of our 132 continuous mining machines are not permitted to run with their scrubbers operating,” writes Blankenship. “Our coal miners are also confused and, quite frankly, distressed by MSHA’s action. They cannot understand why the agency that has been created to protect their health and safety is doing the opposite.”last_img read more