These activities are mandated by the Coal Mine Safety Laws of Virginia and help to ensure that mining operations are conducted in compliance with the minimum standards established by law. Efficient and effective inspections and investigations conducted by experienced and well trained Division inspectors help to identify compliance problems and other health and safety issues which, when corrected, promote improved health and safety performance at mines. The end result is a safer and better work place for Virginia's coal miners.
The Division of Mines' inspection staff consists of 18 coal mine inspectors and two coal mine inspector supervisors. There are nine inspectors and one inspector supervisor assigned to the Lebanon Office, located in Russell County at Lebanon, VA. Nine inspectors and one inspector supervisor are assigned to the Big Stone Gap Office, located in Wise County at Big Stone Gap, VA. The inspection groups serve Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Montgomery, Russell, Scott, and Wise Counties.
Regular inspections must be completed as prescribed by the Coal Mine Safety Laws of Virginia Section 45.1-161.81 A. An inspection of every underground coal mine must be completed not less frequently than every 180 days. Each surface coal mine must be inspected not less frequently than once per year. More frequent regular inspections of coal mines may be scheduled based on risk assessment.
The Division of Mines inspector, inspector supervisor, or Chief may schedule spot inspections. Spot inspections may focus on specific high-risk areas, equipment, or practices. Spot inspections, like regular inspections, will be scheduled as part of a mine risk assessment.
Other types of inspections that my be conducted are:
- Initial 5-day Spot Inspections - Upon notification of the opening of a newly licensed mine, a mine visit will be made by the inspector within five working days to identify the status of the mine. The inspector will assist the mine operator with issues concerning requirements of the coal mine safety laws, and provide information about the operator assistance programs available through DM that promote and assist in improving mine safety performance. After the operator has been informed of the requirements of the law, a regular inspection will normally be initiated within 30 calendar days.
- Reopening Inspections - The Division of Mines' Enforcement staff may assist the Technical Specialist on reopening inspections if deficiencies are cited by the Technical Specialist. A reopening inspection will not be completed if production has started; a regular inspection will be started.
- Smoking Articles Inspections - Upon notification from the federal Mine Safety Health Administration (MSHA), anonymous complaint, or other sources of alleged smoking underground, the Division of Mines Inspection staff will coordinate with the MSHA District Manager or Assistant District Manager to conduct an inspection. Investigative procedures have been established for the purpose of responding effectively to alleged felony acts related to carrying and using smoker's articles in underground mines.