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MSHA directive closes Westridge

Sun Advocate community editor

Due to recent bounces at Westridge mine, federal officials have ordered the company to cease underground operations immediately.

According to Amy Louviere of the United States Mine Safety and Health Administration, UtahAmerican Energy has requested an expedited hearing to appeal the company's mining plan changes mandated by the U.S. Department of Labor.

"Bounces took place on Jan. 24, 26 and 31," said Louviere via telephone interview on Wednesday. "No injuries were sustained during the first two bounces, but the third bounce on Jan. 31 did cause a reportable accident."

A bump, also known as a bounce or burst, is the sudden outburst of coal and rock that occur when stress causes a support pillar to rupture without warning. Coal and rock are sent flying with excessive force, states the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health's website.

According to the MSHA official, UtahAmerican reported the events to the administration and were directed to change Westridge's mining plan.

The bounces took place in the same general area of the mine and MSHA's action centered around leaving more barriers between panels to provide increased stability.

The hearing will take place Feb. 12 or 13 at a court in Denver, Colo., said Louviere.

UtahAmerican is a subsidiary of Murray Energy Inc. The company's coal interests in Utah have included Crandall Canyon, Tower, Westridge and soon to open Lila Canyon mines.

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