MSHA: Kentucky Coal Mine Has 10th Safety Inspection, Served With Default Judgment

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Mine Fined For Safety Violations Continuous Miner Machine

A continuous miner machine extracting coal.

Federal mine safety inspectors conducted a surprise inspection on 8 August 2012 at D & C Mining Corp. in Harlan County, Ky.

Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) officials took control of the mine’s communication systems to prevent advance warning of the inspection.

Inspectors issued five unwarrantable failure orders, one withdrawal order and 10 citations, six of which were deemed significant and substantial.

The safety inspectors issued citations to mine’s ownership for a laundry list of potentially fatal problems including:

  • improperly conducting pre-shift examination
  • allowing combustible materials to accumulate
  • failing to comply with mine emergency evacuation training and drills
  • a foreman and another miner were not wearing self-contained, self-rescuer devices
  • a foreman did not perform a required daily calibration test of multi-gas detectors.

Among the significant and substantial violations were:

• failing to comply with the roof control plan
• an accumulation of combustible materials near damaged areas in the power cord of a battery charger
• misaligned conveyer belts.

The surprise inspection at the Harlan County mine is part of stepped up program of inspections designed to prevent mining injuries and deaths. D & C is one of several mines with histories of safety issues singled out for special enforcement.

Stepped Up Mine Inspections

The monthly mines inspections — which are called impact inspections — began following the explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine in 2010 that killed 29 West Virginia miners.

In the Upper Big Branch disaster, the mine’s owners allegedly consistently refused to correct safety issues prior to the deadly blast.

Impact inspections by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) involve mines that merit increased attention and enforcement due to repeated health and safety violations including fatalities.

This impact inspection at D & C Mining Corp. was the mine’s 10th since April 2010.

Last March, mining regulators filed suit in federal court against D & C Mining alleging it owes $1.67 million of $2.7 million in fines for 1,244 violations it received between 24 January 2006 and 8 February 2012.

MSHA also notified the mine of its potential pattern of violations in 2007 and 2008.

After D & C failed to respond to the complaint, MSHA received a default judgment on 10 July 2012 along with a proposed judgment.

The motion requests:
• payment of the fines owed
• penalties and interest
• an order preventing D & C from “violating or failing or refusing to comply with any final orders” by failing to pay already delinquent penalties and future penalties
• requiring D & C to post a bond ensuring payment of future penalties
• an order that D & C keep all property it owns on site at the mine and not sell or move the property.

“Sadly, D & C Mining still hasn’t gotten the message,” said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. “Operators who continue to ignore sound safety and health practices and fail to pay fines for assessed violations will be subject to the toughest enforcement actions allowed under the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977.”

MASHA inspectors issued 255 citations, 13 orders and two safeguards during special impact inspections conducted at 11 coalmines and four other mines in August 2012.

Since April 2010, MSHA has conducted 492 impact inspections and issued 8,800 citations, 865 orders and 38 safeguards.

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