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The Importance of the Lake Lynn Experimental Mine

Posted By Ariel Hill-Davis, Thursday, June 12, 2014

In September 2013, the lease on NIOSH’s Lake Lynn Experimental Mine and Laboratory ran out and required the return of the land to the original owner.  The loss of the Lake Lynn facilities is a huge blow to mine safety studies and our ability to develop improvements in a clinical setting. 


In 1982, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) leased an abandoned limestone mine and the surrounding land on the Pennsylvania-West Virginia border in Fayette County, Pennsylvania to set up a new mine studies facility.  The Lake Lynn facilities consist of a realistic underground mine as well as an above ground laboratory.  For 30 years NIOSH used the Lake Lynn facilities to conduct important mining safety and health experiments.  The experiments led to advances in numerous important areas including: discovering the necessary level of incombustible material in order to keep coal dust incombustible, the development of a coal dust explosibility meter, and testing various seals strength. 


As injuries and fatalities still occur with regularity at mines across the world, we are reminded of the continued importance of health and safety studies.  Access to a realistic mine in which to conduct experiments is a key component to the fight against injuries and fatalities.  Unfortunately, due to a rock fall in 2008 the underground portion of the lab was and remained closed because the government did not decide to invest further money in land that was leased rather than owned.  The current issue arose when it came time to renew the lease and the owner demanded a higher fee than the CDC was willing and/or authorized to pay. Since paying the initial $11 million for the long term lease the government has invested $7 million in the facilities. Those numbers are nothing compared to the $50 million and five years it would take to try to recreate facilities similar to this one of a kind research facility. 


On June 9, IMA-NA sent a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee requesting the authorization for the CDC to purchase the Lake Lynn facility, or more extremely exercise eminent domain and let the courts decide the compensation.  One thing is certain, the continued safety of our mines requires a test site such as Lake Lynn, and while eminent domain should always be used judiciously the need is great enough to consider it as a last resort. 

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Tags:  Lake Lynn  NIOSH  safety  studies 

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