Friday, July 25, 2008

Feds fine operator of collapsed Utah mine a record $1.6 million; outside review questions the feds

"Sloppy mining plan reviews, lax inspections and a disorganized rescue effort by the federal Department of Labor contributed to the August 2007 deaths of nine workers at a Utah coal mine, according to an independent review made public Thursday evening," reports Ken Ward Jr. of The Charleston Gazette. "Bush administration budget cuts, staffing reductions at labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration, and an emphasis on 'compliance assistance' over enforcement played a role at the Crandall Canyon Mine and in an upsurge in coal-mining deaths over the past three years, according to the report" by retired MSHA officials Earnest Teaster and Joseph Pavlovich, commissioned by Labor Secretary Elaine Chao.

The report was immediately preceded by MSHA's own report, which cited "major engineering deficiencies, overly aggressive mining practices and a disregard for warning signs that led to a catastrophic collapse of roof support pillars in the more than 2,000-foot-deep mine," Ward reports. MSHA fined a subsidiary of Murray Energy Corp. $1.6 million, a record, for "high negligence" and "reckless disregard." (Read more)

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