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MSHA cancels clarification letter on escapeway requirements for underground mines

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Washington — After weighing public and stakeholder input, the Mine Safety and Health Administration has rescinded a program policy letter intended to clarify requirements for providing emergency escapeways for underground metal and nonmetal miners, determining that the clarification “is not needed.”

According to a notice published in the May 27 Federal Register, MSHA made its decision after considering comments on the letter – initially published in the July 29 Federal Register – and feedback received during an Oct. 10 public stakeholder meeting.

 

The agency states that under 30 CFR 57.11050:

  • “Every mine shall have two or more separate, properly maintained escapeways to the surface from the lowest levels which are so positioned that damage to one shall not lessen the effectiveness of the others. A method of refuge shall be provided while a second opening to the surface is being developed. A second escapeway is recommended, but not required, during the exploration or development of an ore body.”
  • “A method of refuge shall be provided” for miners to safely take shelter in the event they are unable to access the areas “when using the normal exit method.”

The letter notes that the refuge site “should be located near the miners so that they promptly and reliably” can enter, and encourages mine operators to confer with MSHA district managers on mine-specific conditions and factors when determining escape and evacuation plans.

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