Coal Dust Fire at Wyoming Mine Burns 3 Miners

CASPER, Wyo. — Three coal miners are recovering from second- and third-degree burns at a hospital in Greeley, Colo., after coal dust ignited at North Antelope Rochelle mine in Campbell County.

The miners’ identities were not released. The men were burnt Tuesday about 10:50 a.m. at a coal truck crusher dump, said Amy Louviere, a spokeswoman with the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration, which is investigating the incident. A bearing was being changed on a chain conveyor and the bottom crusher doors had to be opened to access the conveyor, Louviere said in an email to the Star-Tribune. Coal dust from a slide in the crusher engulfed the area. The dust was ignited by hot bearing embers and a weed burner used to heat the bearing race, Louviere said.

The miners were transported to Campbell County Memorial Hospital in Gillette. From there they were transported to Greeley, said Felicia Messimer, Campbell County hospital spokeswoman.

The mine is owned by St. Louis-based Peabody Energy Corp. Peabody spokeswoman Charlene Murdock said the miners are Peabody employees. In addition to the federal investigation, Peabody safety personnel are investigating, she said. The mine is located in the Powder River Basin, whose mines supply 40 percent of coal mined in the nation.

The last incident at a basin mine was Aug. 16, when Jacob Dowdy was killed at the Black Thunder Mine, owned by Arch Coal Inc. Another miner was injured during the shovel truck accident. Louviere said Wednesday the Black Thunder incident remains under investigation. At North Antelope Rochelle, there have been no operator fatalities since at least 2002, according to MSHA records that go back to 2002.
The most recent contractor fatality was in 2011, MSHA data states. This year, operator injuries are down compared to last year