MSHA Offers Assistance on Breathable Air Requirement of MINER Act

Tuesday, February 13, 2007
The U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) provided additional information to underground coal mine operators to help them determine the quantity of breathable air necessary to sustain trapped miners. The Program Information Bulletin (PIB), entitled "Options for Providing Post-Accident Breathable Air to Underground Coal Miners," will help operators implement Section 2 of the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response (MINER) Act of 2006.

"Providing this guidance is an important step in implementing the MINER Act and will help ensure that miners are protected should an accident occur," said Richard E. Stickler, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "If miners cannot evacuate a mine following an underground mine emergency, they need a safe location that maintains an adequate supply of breathable air for them to use while they await rescue."

Section 2 of the MINER Act requires that each underground coal mine operator adopt a written emergency response plan (ERP) that provides for emergency supplies of breathable air for individuals trapped underground sufficient to maintain them for a sustained period of time. The PIB suggests various methods for determining where breathable air supplies should be located and the amount of breathable air that should be available.

Options that may satisfy the breathable air requirement include: an established borehole capable of providing fresh air to a predetermined location; a 48-hour supply of breathable air, if advance contingency arrangements have been made to reliably assure that miners who cannot be rescued within 48 hours will receive additional supplies of breathable air sufficient to sustain them until rescue; a 96-hour supply of breathable air located at a predetermined location, and other methods as long as these methods provide equivalent safety protection.

Mine operators must submit the portion of their ERPs addressing breathable air not more than 30 days after Feb. 8, 2007, the date of this PIB, and must implement it not more than 60 days after the plan is approved by MSHA. The Program Information Bulletin on breathable air is available for viewing at
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