Blasting is often a necessary part of mining and construction operations. It is the most cost-effective way to break rock or loosen ground. The Bureau of Mining and Reclamation of the Department of Environmental Protection regulates the use, storage, and handling of explosives in Pennsylvania. The Bureau also licenses blasters, reviews blast plans, and investigates complaints. The Department has set standards which make blasting a carefully regulated practice.
Only licensed blasters can detonate explosives within the Commonwealth. Blasters may be licensed as surface mine, general, construction, underground mine, or industrial blasters. To become a licensed blaster, one must meet certain requirements. The applicant is required to have one year of training as a blasters learner before admission to the course. The applicant must document this experience by supplying a signed, notarized statement from his employers. An applicant must be least nineteen years old. The Department also provides a course dealing with rules, regulations, and safety practices in the use and storage of explosives. All blasters are required to successfully pass a written exam prior to the issuance of the blasters license.
Explosives are stored in licensed buildings called magazines. Before issuing a license, in spectors check the storage facility. The magazine must be certain distances from railroads, buildings, and highways. The distances depend on the amount and type of explosive stored. Distance requirements are listed in Chapter 211 of the Department's Rules and Regulations. Magazines must be built following district from other magazines.
Transportation of explosives is strictly regulated. Vehicles must be clearly labeled according to Pennsylvania Department of Transportation standards. A licensed driver must be at least twenty-one years old and a valid commercial drivers license. Explosives and blasting caps must be separated from each other and other materials during transport. Explosives are packed for transport in containers called "day boxes". These transitory storage units must be made out of a combination of steel and wood. Smoking is prohibited in and around a vehicle transporting explosives. A minimum of two fire extinguishers are required per vehicle.
Blast plans are recommended for all blasting operations, they are required for most mining activities. Blast plans are submitted to the Department for review by the blasting inspector. Blast plans explain specifics of the proposed blasting activities. and sets limits on how blasting will be conducted. For example, a blast plan describes the amount and type of explosives to be used. When approved, the conditions in the blast plan apply to the mine operator's permit.
Pre-blast surveys may be done prior to blasting on a surface mine. The pre-blast survey is done for the protection of both the homeowner and the blaster. A pre-blast survey is a way to observe any effects blasting may have on a structure. They survey is conducted by a company or individual independent of the mining company. The surveyor documents both exterior and interior conditions. The surveyor records the condition of the structure before blasting and any other physical factors that blasting could affect. The surveyor also records the quality of private water supplies. Copies of the survey are sent to the homeowner and the Bureau of Mining and Reclamation before approval of a blasting plan for that operation.
The public must be informed before blasting can take place in a mining operation. The Department requires the operator to publish a blasting schedule in a newspaper of general circulation. A blasting schedule contains the following information:
1. Days and times when blasting will occur.
2. Areas where blasting will take place.
3. Descriptions of audible warning and "all clear" signals which will be sounded before and after blasting.
Bureau of Mining and Reclamation staff may attend a public meeting where blasting is, or may be, a concern. The Department provides information on the use, storage, and handling of explosives.
Blasting generates both airblast, another name for noise, and ground vibration. The Department sets standards which limit the amount of airblast and ground vibration produced from blasting. These effects are measured at the closest structure to the blast.
A homeowner may feel vibrations during blasting, even when these standards are being met. This does not mean that blasting is causing damage to the structure. People notice vibrations at very low levels. It takes significantly more vibrations to damage a structure than to perceive the vibrations. Vibrations will be less noticeable outside the home than indoors. When noise accompanies vibrations, blasts often appear stronger than the same vibrations without noise.
A seismograph is a scientific instrument which accurately measures ground vibration and air blast. State regulations require seismic data collection under certain conditions. An independent company conducts the analysis of seismic data. This company must be unrelated to both the blaster and the mining operator.
Comparison of blasting vibrations to the Richter Scale used to measure earthquakes is not a valid comparison. Even though both techniques are based on the same scientific principles, they measure different parameters.
Blasters must meet other standards during blasting. They include, but are not limited to the following:
1. While using explosives, the blaster must secure the blast area and put up signs indicating that explosives are being used.
2. Roads adjacent to a blast site are blocked before firing a blast.
3. Blasters must inspect the blasting area before and after a blast.
4. Blasting may occur only between sunrise and sunset.
Blasters must file a detailed blast report every time they blast. These records are available for inspection by the Department. The blast report includes the name of the operator, blaster, and seismograph operator if one was needed. The report also states the type of material blasted, types of explosives used, and the total amount of explosives used. The report includes the distances and direction to the nearest building neither owned nor leased by the person conducting the blasting.
Department of Environmental Protection staff will investigate blasting complaints from the public. Blast reports and seismic data are reviewed for completeness, accuracy, and regulatory compliance. The Department has no authority to require compensation if damage occurs. Compensation for damage is strictly a civil matter between the operator and the landowner. Where a potential for damage may exist the Department may require modification of the blast plan to reduce vibration levels. If the blast plan has been violated, enforcement action will be taken.
The Department does not regulate fireworks or their displays. this is a matter of local regulations. for more information about fireworks, contact your local municipality.
Explosives are extremely useful, but they are also very dangerous. Only authorized people may handle explosives or any materials used for blasting. Do not attempt to remove or destroy any explosives you may find. Contact the local Department of Environmental Protection, Bureau of Mining and Reclamation District Office with any questions or concerns you may have about blasting or explosives.
Bureau of Mining & Reclamation
101 South Second Street, Room 209
P.O. Box 8461
Harrisburg, PA 17105-8461
Division of Monitoring &
Division of Permits 717-7873-8845
Division of Environmental
Analysis and Support 717-787-4761
District Mining Operations
Ebensburg District Office
R.D. 3 Wilmore Road
P.O. Box 625
Ebensburg, PA 15931 814-472-1900
Greensburg District Office
R.D. 2 Box 603-C
Greensburg, PA 15601. 412-925-5500
Hawk Run District Office
P.O. Box 209
Hawk Run, PA 16890 814-342-8200
Knox District Office
White Memorial Building
Knox, PA 16232 814-97-1191
McMurray District Office
3913 Washington Road
McMurray, PA 15317 412-220-8260
Pottsville District Office
5 West Laurel Blvd.
Pottsville, PA 17901-2454. 717-621-3118
Bond Loan 717-621-3118
Anthracite Mining 717-621-3118
Applicant Violator Systems
Areas Unsuitable for
Blaster's Licensing 717-787-7846
Blast Plans District Office
Bonding Policy 717-787-7846
Bond Processing 717-787-4827
Bonding Regulations 717-787-7846
Bonding Release District Office
Bonding Submittal District Office
Compliance Information. 717-787-7846
Complaints District Office
Permit to Purchase
Permit to Sell 717-783-8059
Explosive Storage District Office
General Information 717-787-5103
Insurance Requirements.. 717-787-7846
Mining Licenses 717-787-7846
Mine Subsidence 717-783-8845
Mine Subsidence Insurance 717-783-9588
Payment in Lieu of Bond 717-787-7846
Permitting, General 717-783-8845
Permitting--Specific Sites District Office
Small Operators Assistance Program
Subchapter F or G 717-783-8845
Water Loss Due to Mining. District Office
When calling, please inform the receptionist of the nature of the call in order to be quickly connected to the proper person. Please have License or Permit numbers and any other information at hand if calling concerning a specific item.