Elk Creek Mine Tells Employees GO HOME

Jan 15th @ 7:00 am in News, People, Public Service by Scott Staley

This story came from http://better-community-news.com/page341.html

300 Employees of the Elk Creek Mine, owned by Oxbow Mine LLC in Somerset, Colorado were told yesterday to go home and not come back to work until further notice. “Miners safety is our first concern,” said Oxbow Mine President Jim Cooper.

The mine staff noticed higher levels of carbon monoxide (CO) being reported by sensors in a small section of the mine according to a source who spoke on condition of anonymity. The company sent a safety team down to inspect the cause of the issues with the appropriate safety equipment for the conditions. The management and engineers are working as quickly as they can to establish plans to keep the mine safe for the workers and reopen operations as soon as they know the conditions are safe.

Employee Tom Garcia said, “MSHA is calling all of the shots right now…Higher CO (carbon monoxide) levels can be caused by coal that is smoldering. It’s not a fire…(and) the smoldering can start spontaneously.”

As soon as we can get a plan that’s approved by MSHAW to address the CO levels, then we will need a lot of people to get the plan done and get everyone back to work,” said Cooper. “The levels are not super high, but we want to make sure those boy are safe…These men who work here are my friends and family,” said the 70-year old man who has been a miner his whole life.  

Cooper said that he’s not sure when the mine will re-open, but they are working to get the right plan finished and approved as quickly as possible. He mentioned that the re-opening could potentially happen this weekend, but said he couldn’t make any promises stating, “We have to make sure we do this right.”  

Garcia told of another time when a mine he was working on was temporarily closed for a similar reason. He said it took about a week for the mine to reopen.  The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) red tagged the entrances of the mine so everyone knows not to enter until plans have been made to make the mine safe again.

Some of the employees are dismayed that they won’t have a paycheck until they can start working again. One, unnamed employee said, “We’re pretty upset because they won’t pay.” He was sure that the Miners’ Rights Act of 1977 required that they be paid when a mine is shut down by a withdrawal order. However, the Miners’ Rights and Responsibilities Act of 1977 states on page 12, that the people on shift that have to withdraw from the mine, have to be paid for the balance of the shift and the next shift has to be paid for up to four hours of lost time. However, no one else is to be paid for more than these amounts unless the mine is given a withdrawal order because the mine is out of compliance with safety and health regulations, which doesn’t apply in this case.