Federal inspectors close Floyd coal mine after finding safety violations

Federal inspectors closed a Floyd County coal mine for more than three weeks after finding safety violations during a special inspection in May, the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration announced Wednesday.

Tram Energy LLC's No. 1 mine was shut down for failure to properly inspect electrical equipment, MSHA said in a news release.

Inspectors issued nearly 30 citations and orders for a variety of alleged safety problems at the underground mine, including mining without required dust controls; damage to the conveyor belt that moved coal; and accumulations of combustible materials including coal dust.

The ventilation plan for the mine called for an air flow of at least 4,000 cubic feet per minute at the working face. However, inspectors found no air movement and no curtain to direct air at a spot where a miner was using a coal-cutting machine, according to the news release.

There was dust floating in the air, increasing potential for an explosion and exposing miners to an increased risk of developing black lung, MSHA said.

"While statistics on compliance with regulations and fatality and injury rates show mine safety is moving in the right direction, not all mines are cooperating," MSHA chief Joseph A. Main said in the news release. "The conditions our inspectors observed at Tram Energy LLC #1, which resulted in the closure of the mine for more than three weeks, demonstrated a complete disregard for the health and safety of miners and for safe mining practices."

MSHA cited the violations during an impact inspection. The agency started those special inspections in 2010 to give increased attention to mines with poor compliance histories or other problems, such as a high number of accidents or injuries.

The agency issued a total of 195 citations during impact inspections in May at nine coal mines and five non-coal mines across the country.

Inspectors issued citations at two other mines in Kentucky: the Locust Grove Inc. Ben's Branch Mine, a surface operation in Perry County, and Dodge Hill Mining Co. No. 1, an underground mine in Union County controlled by Patriot Coal.

MSHA has conducted 616 impact inspections since April 2010, issuing more than 11,000 citations and orders.