"Industry, Regulators Ignored Coal-Dust Meters"

"CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Nine years ago last Thursday, a series of explosions rocked the Jim Walter Resources No. 5 Mine in Brookwood, Ala. Thirteen coal miners died.

Federal investigators blamed the disaster in part on Jim Walter Resources' failure to apply enough 'rock dust' to control explosive coal dust that can build up underground. The company appealed, and a federal judge ruled that the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration's dust samples -- gathered after the explosion -- didn't accurately reflect conditions at the time of the blast.

Now, Massey Energy Co. is raising similar arguments about dust samples. MSHA believes the samples show the coal giant did not do enough to control the buildup of explosive coal dust at its Upper Big Branch Mine, where 29 workers died in a massive blast on April 5.

MSHA might have avoided such legal battles had the agency long ago forced coal-mine operators to install special meters that would allow real-time monitoring of coal-dust conditions in underground mines across the country."

Ken Ward Jr. reports for the Charleston Gazette September 25, 2010.

Source: Charleston Gazette, 09/27/2010