On Sept. 3, MSHA announced it has made a criminal referral of issues relating to the Crandall Canyon Mine to the United States attorney for the District of Utah in a motion filed with the federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission.
The criminal referral arises out of the same facts, events and conditions that led to MSHA's issuance of civil citations and orders on July 24. At that time, MSHA fined the operator of the Crandall Canyon Mine $1,340,000 for alleged violations that directly contributed to the deaths of six miners last year. Agapito Associates Inc., a mining engineering consultant, was fined $220,000 for an allegedly faulty analysis of the mine's design.
"Through its investigation of the tragic accidents last year at Crandall Canyon, MSHA determined that the operator and its engineering consultants demonstrated reckless disregard for safety," said Richard E. Stickler, MSHA administrator. "MSHA has referred this case for possible criminal charges."
The United States attorney for the District of Utah requested that the secretary of labor seek a stay of all civil proceedings, including all discovery in all civil proceedings, in response to this criminal referral. The requested stay is necessary to avoid potential interference with the criminal enforcement process, which could arise from a contemporaneous related civil enforcement proceeding.
In a company statement, Genwal Resources Inc. said MSHA’s request for a criminal investigation “comes as no surprise.”
“MSHA continues to point fingers at others when its own conduct is under scrutiny, while suppressing the public's access to the very information MSHA claims supports its sensational allegations. Mr. Stickler's statement is itself reckless, irresponsible and without factual basis. The facts demonstrate that Genwal Resources Inc. endeavored in good faith to follow safe mining practices and truly believed the mine was safe – a belief that was shared at the time by MSHA itself,” the statement read.
The statement added that Glenwal looks forward to presenting the facts to the U.S. Attorney's Office and is confident of being “exonerated in any fair review of this tragedy.”
For more information, read MSHA Proposes $1.85 Million in Fines for Crandall Canyon Mine Disaster.