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River View Coal Mine Trip, March 18, 2022

Jun 8, 2022, 14:37 PM by Jessica Bloomer
ERC students and faculty visited the River View Coal Mine on March 18, 2022.

ERC students and faculty visited the River View Coal Mine on March 18, 2022 as part of the interdisciplinary trip program. Below are blog posts compiled by the students to discuss their experience on the trip.

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ERC students and faculty visiting the River View Coal Mine on March 18, 2022

River View Coal, a coal mine of Alliance Coal, is a fascinating place to visit. Their safety program is noteworthy. One comment frequently made by students, following a visit to River View Coal, is that their approach to the development of a culture of safety among employees is outstanding and is transferable to health and safety programs of most work environments.

In addition, River View Coal has been a longtime supporter of the ERC at the University of Cincinnati and has hosted a number of our health and safety program graduate students over the years. They are enthusiastic about health and safety and their warm welcome and hospitality are always remarkable.

River View Coal is interested in helping develop health and safety leaders of the future. River View Coal encourages ERC graduate students in occupational safety engineering and mechanical engineering to apply now for summer internships and possibly co-op experiences. They would also consider internships and possibly co-op experiences for students in environmental and industrial hygiene. They also encourage ERC graduates to apply for positions at their coal mine at this time.

Written by Wali Jahangiri

There are 4 different types of vehicles in the coal mine. The continuous miner is equipped with large rotary blades with sharp teeth. It is the machine used to extract the coal in large lumps from layers of the earth called seams. The continuous miner sprays the uncut seams with water seconds before being cut into to reduce the aerosolization of coal. The newly cut coal is then transferred onto the shuttle cars by means of conveyer belts attached to the back end of the continuous miner. The shuttle cars can be loaded with 8.5 tons of coals during each load. This is enough coal to power a household for a year. The shuttle cars are electric vehicles powered by long power cords that are retracted and extended while the shuttle car is in motion. The shuttle car is driven by a miner who is able see the path ahead of him/her with the use of a small Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) screen. The atmosphere in the small cabin of the shuttle car is kept clean using a pump which generates positive pressure. This forms a protective air curtain that pumps debris and respirable particles out of the cabin and away from the airways of the driver. The coal is then transported and fed into a “loader and grinder” which grinds up the large coal particles into smaller pieces which are then loaded into a long conveyer belt. This belt leads out of the mine to the surface.

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Students learning about the coal mine

After the coal has been extracted, a “scoot” equipped with a large front-end blade, is driven to clear out any remaining coal particles that have been leftover. A large network of tunnels is ultimately carved out the seam coal layer. Large square pillars are left to uphold the integrity of the excavation to prevent collapse of the infrastructure. The tunnel system created is illuminated with green lights to indicate the exit out of the mine. Most of the vehicles are electric (EVs) except for the diesel-powered taxis driven into and out of the center of excavation. The use of EVs is to eliminate the buildup of noxious exhaust. The mine has multiple carbon monoxide alarms wireless connected to computers on the surface.

Each worker carries a proximity device that, when in range, automatically shuts off the continuous miner to prevent accidental injury to the worker. A roofing bolt machine drills holes into the roof of the mine and screws in bolts to prevent the collapse of the roof. A resin is injected prior to the bolts being screwed in. This system is called the ATRS (automated temporary roofing system).

Written by Thomas Gerding

The ERC graduate students at UC participated in a site visit at River View Coal during the day of March 18, 2022. Overall, it was a great experience for us to see an example of health & safety and occupational medicine at work. Personally, I appreciated comparing this coal mine to the coal mine we visited in the fall of 2019 in Indiana, Gibson Coal Mine.

River View has the ability to mine up to 75,000 tons of raw material and load up to 60,000 tons of material on barges each day. One "tow" is the equivalent of one batch of 15 barges pushed by one tugboat and each tow can haul 25,000 tons of good material sent to a plant up or down river. 

Within the mines, a continuous miner known as a ripperveyor drills into the forward wall of the mine, extracting coal from the seam using its 70+ bits. As the machinery grinds away at the seam, it conveys material onto a loading truck which then transports it to the mine's conveyor belt to transport the raw material to the surface. Once it reaches the surface, it is then hauled over a three-mile conveyor belt where it is then mechanically separated based upon the difference in density of rock versus coal. Once separated, the rock is then stacked into a small mountain and buried with four feet of dirt. The good coal is then added to the barges directly from another conveyor and is then transported up or down river to power our communities.

Written by Trevor Holtz

Our hosts at the River View Coal Mine were very accommodating. I appreciated their time and attention. A highlight of our trip was our discussions with the resident nursing staff of the employee and family primary health clinic located on site of the facility. This clinic is available to all employees and their family members for primary healthcare checkups and care which is vital to long-term health and early detection of potentially hazardous health conditions.

A common issue cared for in this clinic is musculoskeletal injuries due to the physical effort put in by Riverview’s dedicated staff. An onset clinic allows for early assessment and cares for back pains, joint injury, and various physical assessments necessary for maintaining the health of employees performing a physical labor job. The existence of this onsite clinic highlight’s Riverview’s dedication to their employee’s physical health and sets a standard that should be followed by companies with employees engaging in physical labor.

Due to the low light environment of an underground mine, Riverview maintains lighting for their employees with mobile electrical sources and personal protective equipment (PPE) including a lighted hardhat with adjustable lighting controlled by the employee. Lighting underground is maintained via mobile electrical cords and fixtures which can be moved as coal tunnels are dug out and the operation moves further underground. Ventilation is held in high importance and the flow of air is directed via large tarps and cement block walls meant to ensure air safely reaches the workplace from the surface, resulting in a surprisingly breathable environment underground.

Thank you for this enlightening experience and I look forward to my participation in our next trip.

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Students wearing lighted hardhats required for the low light environment in a coal mine

Written by Taylor Buckley

When the average person thinks of a coal mine, having a strong culture of safety likely doesn’t come to mind. However, during our visit to River View Coal, we learned that cultivating a safe environment is paramount for this company as well as others in the industry.

River View Coal is a working mine located in Union County, Kentucky and is a part of Alliance Coal, the second largest producer of coal in the eastern US. Even though River View is the largest underground mine in the US, its Non-Fatal Days Lost rate (NFDL) is lower than the national average and has been so since its establishment in 2009. This impressive feat was not achieved with luck, but through following a myriad of regulations set forth by the Miner Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), in addition to their own policy implementation.

Using the DuPont safety principles as a starting point, River View’s safety team created their own set of standards which they aptly named “A Safety Awareness Process”, or “ASAP”. One aspect of this safety model focuses on worker behavior but in a manner that isn’t punitive. When a miner is observed performing a task in an unsafe way, a dialogue between the miner and the supervisor is had, in which the miner can discuss what they are doing, why they’re doing it and how it can be done in a safer way. While these measures are certainly important, they are merely a drop in the bucket of what keeps River View’s workers safe above and below the surface.

Written by Victoria Simmons 

The River View Coal Mine LLC was such an incredible experience. The workers’ safety and health seemed to be top priority at the coal mine. During the presentation they gave a visual of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) which consisted of:

  • Hard Hat
  • Safety Gloves
  • Safety Glasses
  • Steel Toe Boots
  • Reflective Vest
  • Reflective Straps
  • Flash LED Light
  • 3M Ear Muffs & Earplugs
  • Self-Contained Self Rescue Device – lasts for 60 minutes
  • Respirator that lasts for 10 minutes
  • Hair Net
  • Matrix Tracking Device so you know the location of each worker while there down in the mine.

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Students wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

The Hazard Training the workers are to take includes 40- days in coal mine safety training. In order to be certified to work in a coal mine, a worker must complete 3 additional months of training for the company. The training would consist of their standard method of “A Safety Awareness Process (ASAP).”

Our hosts explained that 94 % of the work injuries occurring at River View is related to human behavior and 6% to risk factors. They also have 2 escape ways, the first which is the primary escape way which is the color green, the secondary escape way is blue which is the second option and is available in case the first one doesn’t work. They have an onsite Registered Nurse (RN) and Certified Nurse Practitioner (CNP). The RN and CNP provide some work-related injury initial care and assessment for workers and primary health services for workers and their families. Our hosts shared that the most common type of injuries/issues they have seen are:

  • Musculoskeletal
  • Carpal Tunnel
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Vitamin D Deficiency
  • Knee and Joint Problems

Written by Alexei Krainev

When you switch on your light at night to do you every wonder how you got the electricity for the light? Where does the energy to supply the electricity come from to do something that many of us do not even give a second thought about?  

If you ask Ken Ford, the general manager at River View Mining in Waverly, Kentucky, it comes from a coal seam in Western Kentucky 400 feet underground formed millions of years ago. Mr. Ford has been in the coal mining business for many years and is currently working at River View Coal, a part of Alliance Energy, as their general manager. A typical family home will use 5 tons of coal to light and power their home over the course of one year alone!

He emphasizes that coal mining has undergone many changes over the last ten years and is trying to overcome its reputation as unsafe work. He cites data from the Department of Labor showing that coal mining is among the industries with lower numbers of non-fatal injuries.  An entry level miner, for example, must complete more than 40 hours of mandatory Mine Safety and Health Administration training before starting their position. 

One component of mine safety is structural safety that is key in preventing the mine from collapsing as the coal seam is developed. One way this is accomplished is through the ATRD or automated temporary roofing device. As the coal shaft is being expanded forward, this unique machine affixes a metal plate to the coal seam by driving an elongated nail deep into the coal seam and the adjoining bedrock. Use of this tool requires coordination and high degree of situational awareness between two mine technicians as they drive the plates simultaneously while advancing forward along the mine shaft. 

Throughout the mine tour Mr. Ford time and again reiterated the importance of coal in supplying the nation with cheap and reliable energy. The River View Mine is an underground coal mine that supplies its clients with coal by way of barge transport via the Ohio River to destinations such as Louisville, Kentucky and Cincinnati, Ohio.  

The Riverview Coal Mine is not only a source of reliable energy for Cincinnati, Ohio, Louisville, Kentucky utilities, and other national and international customers, but is also a pillar of the local community. The coal mine generates state tax revenues, sponsors sports youth teams and provides gainful employment to many young adults. 

Written by Hannah Phipps

River View Coalmine offered a different prospective on their take on safety along with what personal protective equipment is used. During the visit at River View Coal Mine, they inform visitors on what safety measures they take along with using their own method which they call “ASAP”. The method “ASAP” stands for “A Safety Awareness Program” which provides the workers and visitors information on their safety measures.

At River View Coalmine they provide visitors with numerous personal protective equipment which includes safety glasses, ear plugs, reflective safety vest, hard hat with light, a detector, a belt, a tracker, a suit to cover clothing, self-rescue, and steel toed shoes. A lot of personal protective equipment is required to ensure all workers and visitors are protected properly to protect themselves. Before going into the underground coalmine, a training video was provided for everyone in case an emergency arose while being underground. The training video discussed how to use the self-rescue and where to find the oxygen supply while underground if an emergency came about. The self-rescue is attached to the belt for easy access to be able to use if the air were to be contaminated by a possible explosion or collapse. The training video provided enough information and guidance in case of an emergency were to happen in the underground coalmine.

It was interesting to see how River View Coal Mine explained how far safety measures along with personal protection equipment have evolved to protect the coal mine workers. Overall, learning about River View Coal Mine as a whole and the importance of safety in the underground mine was very educational.

Written by Sofia Villaveces

Fortunately, the River View Coal Mine Safety Team mentioned there are minimal hazards presented to the coal miners by chemicals. This specific mine has a low source of methane, which is the leading cause of explosions within mines as well as carbon monoxide poisoning. While such an explosion and consequent exposure has never occurred at this mine, each helmet worn by every worker is equipped with a carbon monoxide detector in order to further minimize risk of exposure, as the consequence can quickly be lethal.

The dust exposure within the mine has been significantly reduced by water spraying from various equipment pieces, combining with dust particles to weigh them down and drop to the floor of the mine. Still, dust sampling is regularly performed by the Mine Safety and Health Administration to ensure exposure does not exceed legal limits that can pose health risks. Next to River View Coal Mine, there is a large and successful meat packing plant that has not had any issues regarding chemical exposure and food production, emphasizing the minimal chemical hazards at this mine.

As for hazards presented by the equipment involved in the mining, the most dangerous machine automatically shuts off when workers come within close range. A proximity tracker is worn on every individual in the mine, and also allows workers on the surface to monitor where each person in the mine is in the case of needing rescued. The company stated that 96% of the injuries experienced at the site are due to behavioral incidents, while the other 4% were not related to human error. Therefore, many of the injuries experienced at the site do have mechanisms emplaced for prevention but rely on the worker to implement. Worker errors emphasizes a need for further intervention that is less reliant on the user, as even those who have been in the field for years can make simple omissions.

Once the coal has been extracted, conveyor belt lines carry the coal from the underground mine to above ground processing machinery. These belt lines range for miles and eliminate the need for workers to drive the coal via trucks. This has greatly reduced truck accidents, but also reduces the burden and any associated risks for workers to perform this task.

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Students and faculty in the coal mine. Thank you to River View for hosting and educating the ERC group on the safety practices and protocols.

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