Clayton County sand mine temporarily closed down - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Clayton County sand mine temporarily closed down

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CLAYTON COUNTY (KWWL) -

Iowa's only underground sand mine is currently off limits to workers.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration - MSHA - is barring 44 miners from entering the underground mine at Pattison Sand Company, which is in Clayton County along the Mississippi River.

This temporary closure immediately followed a routine inspection on Wednesday.

Federal officials with MSHA found a safety hazard regarding underground scaling and support.

According to MSHA spokesperson Amy Louviere, "an MSHA inspector conducting a regular inspection of the mine determined that an imminent danger to miners existed and issued a 107(a) imminent danger order with an underlying 104(a) contributory citation for a violation of 30 CFR § 57.3360 - ground support use.

She said the order required that all miners be withdrawn from the mine.

Pattison Sand Company has convenient access to shipping, with the Mississippi River, train tracks and truck access. Its shipping and business departments and quarry are still up and running, but work at its mine has halted for now.

Owner Kyle Pattison wouldn't go on camera for this story, but he did prepare a statement.

"Pattison Sand is committed to protecting the safety and health of its workforce and working cooperatively with the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA)," Pattison wrote. "Our mine is safe and productive and our work force is highly professional. Production is temporarily idled pending the resolution of MSHA concerns about our mining process. We look forward to resolving concerns soon and resuming operations."

Pattison Sand Company human resources director Courtney Severson delivered the message to KWWL over the phone. She said the company employs 180 people, 44 of whom are usually down in the mines. She said those miners are still coming to work each day at Pattison, they're just not underground.

The MSHA listed the standard from the Code of Federal Regulations that was violated and resulted in the issuing of a citation.

SCALING AND SUPPORT--UNDERGROUND ONLY

Ground support shall be used where ground conditions, or mining experience in similar ground conditions in the mine, indicate that it is necessary. When ground support is necessary, the support system shall be designed, installed, and maintained to control the ground in places where persons work or travel in performing their assigned tasks. Damaged, loosened, or dislodged timber use for ground support which creates a hazard to persons shall be repaired or replaced prior to any work or travel in the affected area.

KWWL tried contacting several employees, but they expressed concern about putting their jobs in jeopardy by speaking with the media.

Severson said Pattison did not give an estimate of when Iowa's only underground sand mine will be back up and running again.

Ray Anderson is a geologist with the Iowa Geological and Water Survey. He said Iowa sits on the St. Petersburg formation, one of the country's larger sandstone formations. It sits under a number of states, including Nebraska and Missouri.

Across the US, the sandstone mining industry is booming, thanks to fracking. That's a method used to extract natural gas from shale stone. A liquid mixture of sand particles and chemicals is blasted into the shale, causing fractures that allow the natural gas to seep out for collection.

Anderson said Pattison Sand Company, decades ago and under different owners, used to mine sand that went to the John Deere Waterloo Works foundry.

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