Highwall Failures – How they happen

We don’t ususally hear about tragedies at surface mines, but they happen. Slope stability accidents and highwall failures are one of the leading causes of fatalities at U.S. surface mining operations, according to NIOSH.

Here is a list of some of the highwall accidents reported by Mine Safety and Health News:

April 17, 2007: Tri-Star Mining, Inc., Barton, Allegany County, Maryland , Dale Jones, 51 and Michael Wilt, 38 killed in a massive highwall collapsed, burying the two coal miners under 93,000 tons of rock. The company’s ground control plan did not adequately address highwall conditions, and obvious hazards were allowed to exist. Examinations conducted on days prior to and the day of the accident were inadequate. In addition, training did not make miners aware of the hazards introduced by previous underground mining. Severe subsidence above both the Sewickley and Pittsburgh coal seams, resulting from extensive underground mining, caused the highwall to be extremely fractured. Pillar remnants in the Pittsburgh seam represented a severely weakened layer near the base of the highwall.

March 17, 2006: National Coal Straight Creek #2 Mine, a surface coal mine, in Bell and Harlan counties, Kentucky. The highwall at the mine collapsed in the late afternoon or early evening. Two pieces of equipment, a highwall miner and a front-end loader, were damaged in the collapse.

July 18, 2006: Hendrickson Equipment, Inc., Smith Branch No. 1 mine, Jason Mosley, a 28-year-old highwall drill operator, was operating a highwall drill adjacent to a 43-foot highwall. As he was drilling the eighth hole of the day, rock fell onto the cab of the drill, resulting in fatal injuries to Mosley. The rock fall measured 32 feet high by 19 feet wide by 7 feet thick.

December 6, 2004: Kuhl Sand & Gravel, Inc., Erie, Erie County, Pennsylvania (MSHA ID36-07715) . Donald D. Kuhl, was killed when he was trapped in the cab of a front-end loader by falling material while operating a front-end loader digging material near the base of a 65 foot highwall when approximately 445 tons of sand and gravel material fell off the highwall and partially buried the loader. Mining was being conducted at the base of a near vertical, 65 feet highwall that was not benched or sloped to the angle of repose. The mine operator had been cited on several previous occasions for failing to utilize safe mining methods in this same area.

November 13, 2002: MASTER AGGREGATES TOA BAJA CORP., Cantera Isabela, a crushed limestone quarry located in Isabela, Puerto Rico. On November 13, 2002 at approximately 1:45 p.m., part of the highwall collapsed onto the bulldozer, crushing Mr. Rios-Beauchamp to death. Cited:

Two Killed in Friday Highwall Collapse

Two Kentucky surface coal miners were killed by an immense highwall collapse at Armstrong Coal Co.’s Equality Surface Mine (MSHA ID# 1519344). Trapped and killed in the accident were 47-year-old Darrel Winstead, and 33-year-old Samuel Lindsey. A full story will be in the next issue of Mine Safety and Health News (Vol. 18, No. 21)

UBB Security Chief Guilty of Lying

The U.S. Attorney’s Office announced this evening that Hughie Elbert Stover, the former Upper Big Branch Mine chief of security, was found guilty today of making false statements to federal agents and obstructing the federal investigation into the worst mining disaster in 40 years.

Vol. 18, No. 20

  • Accidents:
    • Novice driver rolls off embankment near dump site (545)
    • Falling object slams into shaft worker at Rio Tinto’s Resolution Mine (546)
    • Stillwater Mine reports three incidents (547)
    • Roof comes down in Martin Marietta limestone mine (548)
    • Dozer Operator Escapes Fire at James River’s Buckeye Strip #1 mine (549)
  • Black Lung: State board erred in denying black lung benefits (549)
  • Budget: Budgets for MSHA and Review Commission appear stalled (549)
  • Discovery: Massey investors can proceed with discovery process (552)
  • Escapeways: Commission upholds MSHA’s S&S findings of lifeline violations at Cumberland Mine (553)
  • Fatalities:
    • Surface machinery accident at Consol’s Shoemaker mine costs life of veteran miner (554)
    • Review of repair manual might have prevented fatality at Apogee Coal’s Guyan Mine (555)
    • ALJ affirms $70,000 penalty and personal liability where miner fell trough walkway hole at Morenci mine (557)
  • Injunctions: Court chastises Labor Dept. for failing to file documents in injunction case (558)
  • Investigations: UMWA calls for criminal investigation of Performance Coal, Massey officials (559)
  • Mine Refuges: West Virginia orders refuge inspections (562)
  • On the Move: Shane Harvey moves back to Jackson Kelly (563)
  • Training: Long-time trainer disagrees with West District’s Part 48 policies (563)
  • Trespass: Quarry not responsible for injury of motorcycle rider (564)
  • Review Commission and ALJ Decisions (565)

Need a Safety Director’s Job?

A nonmetal mining company in Salt Lake City Utah is seeking a safety director. Responsibilities include: Implementing Corporate Initiatives to improve the safety, health and productivity of employees across multiple sites.
Training and Certifying Trainers at Business Units on Health and Safety Standards, Safety Best Practices and Safety Procedures.
Supporting Operating Facilities with MSHA Citation Conferencing.
Assisting EHS Manager with Safety, Health and Environmental System Audits and Compliance Audits.
Auditing employee exposures to dust, noise and ergonomic hazards; based on auditing data, assist and
train local Plant Managers and Safety Reps to comply with Health Regulations.
Coaching, training and auditing perations with safety incident investigations.
Assisting operations to develop a safety management system.

Please email me directly (minesafety@aol.com) if you wish a copy of the job description and application information.

Mine manager arrested in Wales

This just in: The mine manager that survived last month’s mine flood in the Gleision Colliery (South Wales) was just arrested on suspicion of gross negligence manslaughter — charges that can’t be brought against a mine owner or manager in the U.S. under the Mine Act. The Gleision miners mined into an old abandoned mine workings that were flooded and could not escape. Accurate mine maps and drilling boreholes in advance of mining (required under British law) could have prevented the disaster.

Vol. 18, No. 19

  • Accidents:
    • Truck plunges over bench in highwall collapse at Tuscaloosa Resources (520)
    • Trailing cable caused shock at Aracoma’s Hernshaw mine (520)
    • Two burned by lime dust at O’Neal Quarry (521)
    • Newmont’s Leeville mine Hoist breakdown and temporarily traps 61 (521)
    • Gilsonite plant burns down (522)
    • Morton Salt reports massive roof fall (522)
    • Pinnacle Mine permitted to restart mining operations (523)
  • Black Lung: Widow’s case denied due to late filing of subsequent claim (523)
  • Discovery:
    • ALJ sides with American Coal in discovery dispute over MSHA inspector notes (524)
    • MSHA’s Special Assessment Review protected under “work product privilege” (524)
  • Equal Access to Justice Act: Small janitorial company not entitled to EAJA fees (525)
  • Equipment Safety: Company’s replacement safety tags don’t violate settlement with Joy Technologies (526)
  • Fatalities:
    • Machinery accident kills 23-year-old coal miner at Owlco Energy LLC Mine (527)
    • Unsafe work on moving belt was common at Bolinder Resources, MSHA alleges (528)
    • Failure to bolt loose layer caused death of limestone miner at Subtropolis Mining (529)
  • General News: Lehigh Hanson focuses on workers after employee-driver murders, injures fellow co-workers (530)
  • Inspections: Pennsylvania DEP exceeded authority when citing coal companies for violations, accidents (531)
  • Labor Relations: Cary Salt ordered to reinstate 84 workers with back-pay (532)
  • Pattern of Violations: Vision Coal mine added to POV status after MSHA document audit (533)
  • Water Quality:
    • N.H. operator pays $200,000 fine for water quality violations with $300,000 in upgrades (533)
    • Arch Coal agrees to pay $2 million to settle selenium pollution lawsuit (534)
    • Groups sue operator over selenium at W.Va. mine (534)
  • Review Commission and ALJ Decisions (535)