Mines comply with US coal dust rule

OREANDA-NEWS. August 20, 2015. Nearly all mines are in compliance with the US Mine Safety and Health Administration's (MSHA) respirable dust standards, the agency said.

In the year since the rule took effect, only 1.1pc of the almost 62,000 dust samples analyzed by the agency have exceeded the allowable dust concentration limit, MSHA said yesterday. And the annual average concentration of respirable dust in the dustiest mines dropped to historic lows.

"While some insisted that mines would be unable to comply with the requirements of the rule, sampling results have proved that assumption is incorrect," assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health Joseph Main said.

The agency is moving into the second phase of the rule, which, starting on 1 February 2016, increases the frequency of dust sample collections. It also will require underground miners exposed to the highest concentration of respirable dust as well as those with evidence of black lung disease to wear continuous personal dust monitors starting on 1 February 2016.

The third and final phase of the rule, going into effect next August, reduces the allowable respirable coal dust concentrations for the dustiest mines by 25pc to 1.5 mg/cubic meter and halves the permitted exposure level for certain mine entries and workers with pneumoconiosis to 0.5 mg/cubic meter.

The agency has been holding stakeholder meetings in several cities. But some producers and industry groups still oppose the rule, saying legal and technological challenges make it too costly and difficult to comply in time.

The US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in Atlanta heard oral arguments in the National Mining Association (NMA) and others' appeal of the rule last March. NMA did not respond to a request for comment.

The rule was published in May 2014 and became effective on 1 August 2014. It is meant to decrease the number of miners who suffer from black lung disease, which MSHA said has contributed to the death of 76,000 US miners since 1968.

The rule heightened MSHA's enforcement authority, allowing it to issue a citation on any single, full-shift sample that shows dust concentrations at or exceeding required levels. The rule also expanded sampling at surface mines, increased certification and de-certification requirements for personnel conducting sampling and raised medical surveillance requirements for surface and underground mines.