MSHA Notifies 10 Operators for Potential Pattern of Violations

The U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) recently announced that 10 mine operators from around the country have received letters putting them on notice that each has a potential pattern of violations of mandatory health or safety standards under Section 104(e) of the federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 (Mine Act).

"The nine coal mines and one metal/nonmetal mine represent the fifth round of mine operators to receive these letters using the current criteria for identifying mines with a potential pattern of violations," said Dr. Gregory R. Wagner, MSHA's deputy assistant secretary for policy. "We hope this notification will encourage these 10 mine operators to integrate necessary improvements into their safety and health programs."

A mine operator that has a potential pattern of recurrent significant and substantial (S&S) violations at a mine receives written notification from MSHA. An S&S violation is one that could reasonably be expected to lead to a serious injury or illness. The operator has an opportunity to review and comment on the documents upon which the potential pattern of violations is based and to develop a corrective action plan to reduce S&S violations in order to reverse the potential pattern.

MSHA closely will monitor each affected mine's compliance record while performing a complete inspection at each mine during the ensuing 90 days. If an operator significantly reduces its violation frequency rate, it can avoid being issued a Notice of a Pattern of Violations pursuant to Section 104(e) of the Mine Act. If the improvement falls short of the criteria, MSHA will issue the notice. For each S&S violation subsequently found after a Notice of a Pattern of Violations is issued, MSHA will issue an order withdrawing miners from the affected area until the cited condition has been corrected.

An operator can be removed from a pattern of violations when 1) an inspection of the entire mine is completed and no S&S violations are found or 2) no withdrawal order is issued by MSHA in accordance with Section 104(e)(1) of the Mine Act within 90 days of the issuance of the pattern notice.

MSHA used data from the 24 months ending Aug. 31, 2009, to identify the mines with a potential pattern of violations.

The mines that received notifications include Black Beauty Coal Co., McCoy Elkhorn Coal Corp., Pleasant View Mining Co. Inc., Doe Run Co., Knox Creek Coal Corp., Mountain Reclamation & Construction, Spartan Mining Co. Inc., Pine Ridge Coal Co. LLC, Laurel Coal Corp. and Mammoth Coal Co.

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