State Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training spokesperson Leslie Fitzwater told ILN this week that all underground mines in West Virginia were inspected on April 14-28 by state inspectors. Of those reviewed, 51 were targeted for initial inspection by the mines’ inspectors-at-large for their respective region.
“Mines that liberate high amounts of methane within a 24-hour period and mines considered to be problematic in the past were the first to be inspected,” she said.
While fine assessments are not yet complete, state officials issued 128 violations. Two facilities, which the agency did not identify, received orders to idle until issues could be rectified.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the WVOMHST confirmed to ILN that both were back online.
"We focused on ignition sources, combustibles, combustion standards and electrical standards. I can't say that we were disappointed," agency director Ron Wooten told various local media outlets.
"I would rather we had not found any violations but we did."
Fitzwater added that the enforcement spotlight would not be removed from the state’s mines anytime soon.
“No additional statewide targeted enforcement is planned; however, enhanced enforcement will occur on a site-specific basis as determined by our inspectors-at-large,” she said.
The inspection blitz was ordered by state Governor Joe Manchin after April’s explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine in Raleigh County.
A similar nationwide blitz completed by the US Mine Safety and Health Administration on April 19-23 resulted in more than1300 citations.
There are approximately 200 underground coal mines in West Virginia.