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The mining companies must develop a detailed blasting plan which demonstrates how blasting will be conducted to prevent damage. A certified blaster must either conduct or directly supervise the loading and detonation of all surface coal mine blasts. The operator's blaster must pass a test to be certified by the Division of Reclamation. The operator must notify the public prior to blasting and be willing to conduct pre-blast surveys as required by the regulations.
Why do mines have to blast?
Surface coal mine operators frequently have to loosen the rock above the coal seam. Then they can remove the coal. The coal is not blasted but removed using mechanical equipment.
After the topsoil and subsoil layers are removed and stockpiled for later reclamation, the blasting crew drills holes in the rock into which explosives and stemming material can be loaded. The denotation of the explosive materials will fracture the rock that can be scooped up with a front-end loader, dragline or other heavy equipment.
Dynamite is not typically used in surface coal mining. The blasting agent commonly used is called ANFO, a mixture of ammonium nitrate (a common fertilizer) and fuel oil. The blaster must carefully calculate the amount of blasting agent used to fill the drill holes so that the blast can be controlled. It is a violation if adjacent property is damaged either by fly rock or vibrations caused by too powerful of a blast.
At least 30 days before the initiation of blasting operations, the mining company must notify, in writing, all residents or owners of dwellings or other structures within one-half mile of the permit area of how a pre-blast survey may be requested. They must notify the public, by publication in a local newspaper in the county in which blasting will occur. An operator will conduct a pre-blast survey upon the request by a resident or owner of a man made dwelling or structure within one (1) mile of the permit area.
Survey requests received more than 10 days before the initiation of blasting will be conducted before blasting begins. Those received less than 10 days before the initiation of blasting will be conducted within 30 days of receipt of a survey request. Indiana rules allow that the structure owner be provided an opportunity to disagree with the results of the survey.
Conditions for blasting
Blasting may take place only between sunrise and sunset. Warning and all-clear signals, audible within one-half mile from the blast, must be given. Restriction of the blasting area is necessary during blasting operations. There are also limits on the location of blasting. It may not be conducted within 300 feet of a dwelling unless permission is granted by the owner. Blasting may not be conducted within 300 feet of a school, church or hospital.
The Division does have a limited supply of seismographs that can be placed on adjacent properties to record blasts. The coal operator also maintains seismographs to record the intensity and frequency of the blasts. Records of all blasts, including required seismograph recordings and reports, must be maintained for a minimum of three years. These records are available for public inspection at the mine site.
The Division of Reclamation has prepared a Citizen's Guide to Coal Mine Blasting.