Solid Fuel’s No. 1 mine in Claiborne County, Tennessee, formerly known as Wilcoal’s Tri-State Mining, and Rhino Eastern’s Eagle 1 mine in Raleigh County, West Virginia, both initially received potential POV notices from the US Mine Safety and Health Administration last November.
The newest letters were issued, MSHA said Friday, after both mines failed to maintain the health and safety improvements made during their initial evaluation periods. It is the first time in the history of enforcement of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 that this has occurred.
In the five months following that initial period in late 2010, the significant and substantial (S&S) violation rates for each of the operations significantly increased.
The rate of Solid Fuel’s No. 1 mine increased from 4.84 to 21.94 S&S citations and orders per 100 inspection hours, and the rate of Rhino Eastern’s Eagle 1 mine increased from 4.18 to 24.77 S&S citations and orders per 100 inspection hours.
Also, the agency noted, a rib fall fatality occurred at Rhino in June, despite rib rolls being specifically addressed in the mine’s corrective action program.
“In accordance with MSHA’s POV procedures summary, the agency has continued to monitor the mines for long-term compliance,” MSHA officials said.
“Based on the most recent enforcement data, MSHA determined that these mines are no longer making a good faith effort to eliminate violations.”
Under federal regulations, the agency can consider mines for PPOV at least once annually, and those operations receiving PPOV notices have the opportunity to implement corrective action programs and are required to reduce their S&S rates to targets set by agency POV procedures.
“MSHA encourages mine operators to implement corrective action programs with long-term goals for reducing violations beyond the goals established by MSHA under the POV procedure,” the agency said.
“However, when mine operators do not sustain these goals, MSHA determines whether they are making a good faith effort.”
Assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health Joseph Main said that the need for long-term compliance monitoring for POV mines was an issue raised by the Department of Labor’s Office of the Inspector General, and is an effort with which it agrees.
“MSHA will not allow mines to abandon corrective action programs after meeting short-term POV goals,” he said.
“We will insist these mines continue to provide miners the protections they deserve, and we will use all of the tools available to us under the Mine Act to ensure that they do.”