Coal Age

JUL-AUG 2018

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May 2016 2 editor's note The West Rock Dust Dilemma T he cover story this month is about the difficulties of in- troducing a new foaming rock-dust product to the under- ground coal market. Many moons ago, I used to spread rock dust on the graveyard shift. It is a thankless job, but it's a task that must be performed daily, and all miners understand that. Ironically, when underground coal miners see black, they see danger. The way light is reflected by the whiteness of a recently dusted face imbues a safe working environment. For much of the 20th century, rock dust was just that: a 50- lb bag of pulverized limestone. As the story explains, the U.S. Bureau of Mines led the effort to use it in 1908 and, while the means to spread it has evolved, the substance itself remained the same until about five years ago or so. The Upper Big Branch explosion motivated people to look for something better. The companies that spe- cialized in rock dust and the systems that spread it began to develop new products and tools. Unfortunately, during this timeframe, the National Institute for Occupa- tional Safety and Health (NIOSH) closed its Lake Lynn Experimental Mine (LLEM). One of the mining industry's biggest problems is that it does its job so well that most of the time people forget they are doing it until something bad happens. That's nothing new, but it's that disconnect that led to the closure of the U.S. Bureau of Mines in the 1990s. Most of the mine safety research was then transferred to NIOSH. Today, suppliers and mine safety researchers find themselves in a Catch-22, which is defined as a quandary or vicious circle from which there is no escape be- cause of mutually conflicting or dependent conditions. The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has said it cannot approve foam-related rock dust as a replacement for traditional rock dust until full-scale explosion testing has been completed. They have in effect punted to NIOSH. With the closure of the LLEM, NIOSH no longer has the ability to conduct full-scale explosion tests. In the case of this month's cover story, the supplier traveled halfway around the world and invested a considerable amount of money to conduct tests at the only re- maining facility. The product passed the test. They then submitted the results to MSHA and NIOSH on multiple levels, including the top levels. They received no response. NIOSH is caught in the mutually conflicting or dependent conditions that satisfy the Catch-22 analogy. If NIOSH acknowledges and MSHA accepts the results from the South African lab, then NIOSH will likely never get the funding it needs to reopen a full-scale testing facility. There are NIOSH researchers that have devoted their ca- reers to this area of research. They led the world with their work and they have divid- ed loyalties on this matter. They may know it will help the coal operators and want to put their stamp on it, but their hands are tied by the politics of research funding. The situation also points out the irony of MSHA when comparing American mines with the rest of the world. There is no MSHA anywhere else in the world. In Australia and South Africa, which are both significant underground coal producers, the mine managers are expected to provide for the safety of their miners. They don't have reg- ulators looking over their shoulders telling them what to do. It's up to the individual mine manager to accept the risks. For now, the American coal operator has no choice but to follow the laws as written and hope that regulators will come to their senses. Coal Age, Volume 123, Issue 6, (ISSN 1040-7820) is published monthly ex- cept January, June and November, by Mining Media International, Inc., 11655 Central Parkway, Suite 306, Jacksonville, Florida 32224 (mining-media. com). Periodicals postage paid at Jacksonville, FL, and additional mailing offices. Canada Post Publications Mail Agreement No. 41450540. Canada return address: PO Box 2600, Mississauga ON L4T 0A8, Email: subscrip- Current and back issues and additional resources, in- cluding subscription request forms and an editorial calendar, are available online at SUBSCRIPTION RATES: Free and controlled circulation to qualified subscribers. Visit to subscribe. Non-qualified persons may subscribe at the following rates: US domestic addresses a 10 issue subscription, $75.00 USD, All addresses outside the USA a 10 issue subscription $125.00 USD. For subscriber services or to order single copies, contact Coal Age, c/o Stamats Data Management, 615 Fifth Street SE, Cedar Rapids IA 52401, 1-800-553- 8878 ext. 5028 or email ARCHIVES AND MICROFORM: This magazine is available for research and retrieval of selected archived articles from Proquest. For microform avail- ability, contact ProQuest at 800-521-0600 or +1.734.761.4700, or search the Serials in Microform listings at POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Coal Age, 11655 Central Parkway, Suite 306, Jacksonville, FL 32224-2659. REPRINTS: Mining Media International, Inc., 11655 Central Parkway, Suite 306, Jacksonville, FL 32224 USA; phone: +1.904.721.2925, fax: +1.904.721.2930, PHOTOCOPIES: Authorization to photocopy articles for internal corporate, personal, or instructional use may be obtained from the Copyright Clear- ance Center (CCC) at +1.978.750.8400. Obtain further information at COPYRIGHT 2018: Coal Age, incorporating Coal and Coal Mining & Processing. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Steve Fiscor, Publisher & Editor-in-Chief BY STEVE FISCOR PUBLISHER & EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Mining Media International, Inc. 11655 Central Parkway, Suite 306 Jacksonville, Florida 32224 U.S.A. Phone: +1.904.721.2925 Fax: +1.904.721.2930 Editorial Publisher & Editor-in-Chief—Steve Fiscor, Associate Editor—Jennifer Jensen, Technical Writer—Jesse Morton, Contributing Editor—Russ Carter, Latin American Editor—Oscar Martinez, Graphic Designer—Tad Seabrook, Sales Midwest/Eastern U.S. & Canada, Sales—Victor Matteucci, Western U.S., Canada & Australia—Frank Strazzulla, Scandinavia, UK and European Sales—Colm Barry, Germany, Austria & Switzerland Sales—Gerd Strasmann, Japan Sales—Masao Ishiguro, Production Manager—Dan Fitts,

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