Friday, October 25, 2013

Mine-safety agency targets three habitual violators for stricter scrutiny, may pick more

UPDATE, Nov. 26: Coal River Mining LLC's Fork Creek No. 1 mine in Lincoln County, West Virginia, was added to the list for failing to report a series of worker injuries, MSHA says.

Two underground coal mines in West Virginia and one in Kentucky will come under stricter scrutiny because they have a pattern of violating health and safety laws, the Mine Safety and Health Administration announced Friday. More may be added, MSHA said.

The mines targeted are Tram Energy’s No. 1 in Floyd County, Kentucky; Brody Mining’s No. 1 in Boone County, W.Va.; and Pocahontas Coal Co.’s Affinity Mine in Raleigh County, W.Va. "The agency is still reviewing the injury records of several mines to determine if they should be considered for a POV notice based on this screening," MSHA said in a news release.

Federal law has long allowed MSHA to target repeat violators, but agency policy required "disagreements with companies over violations and fines to be resolved before the agency can take such matters into account," Manuel Quiñones of Environment & Energy News notes. That policy has been changed.

The Tram mine, which started production last year, received 120 "serious and substantial" violation notices and 40 closure orders from MSHA during the period that the agency reviewed to find patterns of violation. No mine received more closure orders, and Tram has racked up about $169,000 in unpaid penalties.

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