Thursday, July 16, 2009

McClane Canyon Coal Mine Tour a success

With the coal mining industry, in general, having a reputation for being not so friendly, environmental-wise, concerning air quality and water purity, McClane Canyon Coal Mine mine is doing something positive to erase such memories.
Even though there still remain some questionable practices like mountain topping in Tennessee, heaps of low quality, sulfur laden coal dust, produced by a power plant in the same region, now having to be dealt with, due to damage of acres and acres of land where the mounds have been stored, these types of hazards are not the case at McClane Canyon as well as many other "clean" mining operations.  
Upon visiting the mine and taking a thorough tour, it was found that coal can be extracted in safe ways, safe for the miners, and safe for the environment.
McClane Canyon and the new, proposed Red Cliff Mine are owned by Rhino LLC of Lexington, Kentucky. This company is doing all it can at McClane Canyon and in the planning for Red Cliff, to be an example of how coal should and can be mined.
When Gary Isaac was hired at McClane three years ago, there were 235 safety violations recorded. During his first year this number was brought down to 112, the next year, through hard work and thoughtful planning, the violations numbered 71. As of July, 2009, there are 31 violations. Mine inspection has really stepped up since the Crandall Canyon Mine accident which killed six miners. 
The company was doing retreat mining, meaning taking out pillars of coal as the crew proceeded toward the exit. These pillars helped shore the ceiling.  
This accident at was actually the result of GRI Resources giving incorrect numbers to AGAPEDO, of Grand Junction, whose engineers, then interpreted the numbers and sent the information to MSHA, the mining safety  association, who then approved the plan as submitted by the owner, Bob Murray, for the removal of the coal pillars. 
The collapse of the ceiling buried six miners on August 6, 2007. On August 10, two more miners and one inspector working on rescue were also killed. Murray claimed the accident did not occur due to mining. Although legally correct, since it was a maintenance crew, morally the pillars should never have been taken. The explanations by Murray and the publicity put PR for mining back 20 years according to Isaac.
"What has come out of the incident is that it has caused the mining inspections to become even more thorough," he said.
Inspectors visit our mine at least twice a week and even more, with inspections coming at random times and days.
Isaac brings a history of coal mining to McClane. His grand father and his father were miners. His grandfather was killed in a construction accident, while his father was trying to get victims out of a car which had crashed into a pole. The live power line killed him. 
Having worked in mining for 32 years, Isaac definitely feels the industry is mindful of the environment.
"Safe mines are productive mines," he said. "Paying close attention to safety makes everyone a part of the team."
At present, the mine employs 26 miners. Cameo, owned by Excel Energy, has announced their closing by December of 2010. With Cameo as McClane's sole customer, the mine is looking to construct a railroad spur to the Union pacific Line at Mack. The line would require one bridge and two crossings similar to the one at Loma, with signal lights and gates. Since the railroad would travel five days per week and two round trips per day, there would only be four timer a day that any cars would have to wait. 
Cory Heaps, Project Engineer noted that in case of emergency, the railroad could be called and would then slow the train to even a stop so the emergency vehicle could cross. The area in sparsely populated at present, so emergencies would actually be rare. 
At present some 49 trucks transport coal via Highway 132. According to Heaps and Isaac, the majority of people are not even aware of that traffic.  With no accidents until this year, when one of the trucks side-swipped a hazardous waste carrying tuck, this means of transportation has been safe. A railroad spur would eliminate any chance of such an event happening again.
Citing the safety of this mining procedure, if the railroad spur is given the okay by BLM, then the mine can expand, with new markets, thus employing up to 250 miners, a big boost for the economy as well as the production of more energy. The area around McClane is good for at least 20 some years. The section next to the  company's property holds many more resources. Red Cliff would be a huge boost to the safe energy production of the area and the local economy. 
Closed bidding is pending for designated areas around those locations. A rail road would certainly be a win-win situation.


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