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MSHA News Release No. 2000-1019
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Contact: Rodney Brown
Phone: (703) 235-1452

 Released Thursday, October 19, 2000

New toll-free number announced
MSHA to Conduct Thorough Inspections of Coal Mine Impoundments

    The U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) today announced it will conduct intensive inspections of some 600 coal mine waste impoundment dams throughout Appalachia in the wake of last week's impoundment failure at the Martin County Coal Corporation in southeastern Kentucky.

    "We want to do all that we can to check these impoundments and take every measure possible in an effort to prevent this type of failure in the future," said Davitt McAteer, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health.

   In the early morning hours of Oct. 11, it was discovered that an inrush of water and slurry from an impoundment had entered the underground workings of an abandoned mine of the Martin County Coal Corporation near Pilgrim, Ky. Reports indicate more than 250 million gallons of sludge–water containing coal dust and other mine waste–poured into the underground mine, bursting through portals and, eventually flowed into tributaries of the Big Sandy River. No one was injured in the incident.

   MSHA inspectors are immediately being dispatched to specific impoundment sites identified by the agency as having potential to fail and pose a threat to the lives or property of workers and citizens in the surrounding community. The results of the inspections will be presented at several yet-to-be announced town hall meetings in various coal mining communities throughout Appalachia. The general public as well as other federal and state agencies will be invited to attend.

   The agency is also announcing the availability of a toll-free telephone response line that both miners and other citizens may call if they have questions concerning impoundments in their communities. That number is 1-888-454-3124.

   MSHA is the federal agency responsible for inspection of all mining operations in the U.S. for adherence to standards protecting the health and safety of working miners. The agency also investigates of all serious and fatal accidents occurring at these operations.