A case of whether a mine operator adequately recorded the details of accumulations of coal dust, loose coal, and other combustible material on a 3,600-foot slope belt could clarify the way all mine operators conduct federally mandated safety exams in the future.

The D.C. Circuit is set to hear oral arguments Oct. 22, over an issue all coal mine companies deal with—just how much detail is required for adequate record keeping when conducting mine safety exams. A ruling against the...