Pattern offenders put on notice

THE latest review of compliance records has forced the US Mine Safety and Health Administration to put 14 coal and two metal/nonmetal operations on notice for a potential pattern of violations (POV).

Donna Schmidt

This is the third round of reviews conducted by the agency under its enhanced enforcement efforts, and it indicated that letters of warning have already been delivered to the target mines. Patterns of violation are determined fusing data from its most recent eight quarters.

A list provided to International Longwall News reflected that, of the 14 coal operations, 12 were underground:

GCC Energy King 1 - Colorado

Excel Mining No. 2 - Kentucky

Stillhouse Mining No. 1 - Kentucky

Blue Diamond Coal/James River Coal No. 75 - Kentucky

Massey Energy Rockhouse Mine No. 1 - Kentucky

D&C Mining - Kentucky

Conshor Mining No. 1 - Kentucky

Patriot Mining No. 2 - Virginia

Carter Roag Coal Pleasant Hill - West Virginia

Newtown Energy Eagle Mine - West Virginia

Argus Energy Deep Mine No. 8 - West Virginia

Double Bonus Coal No. 65 - West Virginia

Ontario Tilden/Cliffs TIOP Tilden Mine - Michigan (surface)

Chevron Mining McKinley - New Mexico (surface)

“Repeated safety and health violations by mine operators will not be tolerated," said MSHA acting assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health Richard Stickler.

“These screenings represent just one part of MSHA's comprehensive approach to enforcement, which I firmly believe has greatly improved our effectiveness. Naturally, the ultimate goal is safe and healthy conditions at all mines."

MSHA noted that each operator will have an opportunity to both review and comment on the documents upon which the agency bases its decision and can develop a plan of corrective action “to reduce S&S [significant and substantial violations], failure to abate, imminent dangers and unwarrantable failure violations” so that they may be removed from the POV list.

In the meantime, the agency said it plans to monitor each mine’s compliance record over the next 90 days.

“If the 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 Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977. If the improvement falls short of the criteria, MSHA will issue the notice,” the agency said.

Otherwise, if additional S&S violations are discovered, MSHA said it will give withdrawal orders for all workers in the mine’s affected area until the issues have been rectified.

“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,” the agency said.

The two previous rounds of notices were distributed in June and December 2007. Of the first group of eight, seven operators met or exceeded the criteria required for reducing their rates of violation.

“They successfully and dramatically reduced their significant and substantial (S&S) violation rates – on average – by 50 percent during the 90-day review period [while] one mine closed,” MSHA said.

The second group of 20 operations put on notice late last year all installed corrective action plans, it said, as the agency monitored progress.

“The results were dramatic, with all 20 mines reducing S&S violation rates an average of 65 percent during the 90-day review period,” MSHA said.

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