'Precedent-Setting' Lawsuit Filed Against Kentucky Mine Operators, Owner

An injunction against a coal-mining operator and his two Kentucky-based companies has been filed in what the Mine Safety and Health Administration is calling "an unusual and precedent-setting lawsuit."

Stanley Osborne and the two companies he owns Misty Mountain Mining and Midgard Mining have chronically failed to pay fines for mine safety violations, according to the suite filed by MSHA. The fines, totaling to more than $80,000, have been accruing since 2003.

The lawsuit also contends Osborne has not paid fines of more than $200,000 for health and safety violations that date back to the 1980s.

"We will use every tool at our disposal to go after operators that refuse to pay their penalties for mine safety violations, and that includes holding to people who control them personally responsible," said David Dye, acting administrator for the MSHA.

The agency wants a federal judge to order Osborne and his mines to pay all outstanding penalties and future fines. The government asked that a bond be posted with the court to ensure Osborne and the mines will pay.

MSHA had been pursuing this legal action months prior to the recent coal mining tragedies in West Virginia, according MSHA spokesperson Dirk Fillpot.

"This is the first in a series of similar actions MSHA plans to take against other mine operators who have histories of willfully failing to pay MSHA fines," he said.

In October 2005, an administrative law judge for the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission ordered Osborne and Misty Mountain Mining to pay $10,000 in civil fines for discharging and discriminating against four miners who worked for Misty Mountain.

Osborne is currently appealing that decision.

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