Citingnewly discovered technical limitations, the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administrationannounced that the agency would temporarily delay its own respirable dust sampling,and "the requirement that coal mine operators conduct respirable coal minedust sampling."
In anannouncement late last week, MSHA noted that it had recently discovered interferencebetween proximity detection systems and respirable dust sampling devices, tellingminers to hold off on required sampling.
The delaycomes as the industry continues its challenge to new federal rules on respirabledust, which they have insistedwould "cripple" the coal sector if implemented. Most recently, and the NationalMining Association arguedthat apanel of judges forthe U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit erred in denying the coal industryattempt to overturn new rules aimed at lowering the incidence of black lung.
Thateffort came after a second phase of the rule came into effect Feb. 1.
MSHAhas pushed back on criticsof the rule, suggesting that when fully implemented, it will save hundreds of lives,while the required monitors will provide real-time results of dust exposure to helpkeep exposure levels at acceptable levels.
The initialrule was first introducedin April 2014 and is intended to lower the occurrence of black lung, a disease thathas estimated to have been a contributing factor in the death of 76,000 coal minerssince 1968.
Whilelast week's announcement promises a delay in dust sampling until MSHA can analyzeand address the interference problem, it does not appear to pose any threat to theoverall implementation of the rule and mine obligations.
"MSHAis actively analyzing the interference problem and will issue a notice as soon asdust sampling is to resume," the agency wrote.
MSHAcould not be reached for further comment on the progress of the technical issue.