MSHA orders closure of Virginia mine

THE US Mine Safety and Health Administration has issued a closure order to the Snapco No. 2 underground operation in Virginia for failing to pay almost $US400,000 in delinquent penalties.

Donna Schmidt

The Buchanan County operation owes a total of $396,576.84 in delinquent fines stemming from more than 360 federal violations. According to MSHA, the mine has ignored the agency’s demand to pay the fines.

"When mine operators fail to meet their legal obligations, MSHA must take appropriate action," MSHA deputy assistant secretary for operations Michael Davis said.

"This company had been given every opportunity to pay its fines and was warned that failure to pay could lead to a closure order."

The agency said there was “some discussion” following an April 3 letter sent to the operator through its legal representative, but Snapco did not make suitable arrangements to pay its penalties. MSHA subsequently issued a citation on April 16 “when it became evident that the operator would not address the violations” and the closure order was effective as of April 22.

In March, the Snapco No. 2 operation was one of 13 coal operations put on notice by MSHA for a potential pattern of violations as part of the agency’s fourth round of warnings since 2007.

Each targeted mine, which also included the Keokee Mining No. 1 complex in Virginia, received a letter placing them on alert for a possible pattern of “recurrent significant and substantial violations”. The agency defines an S&S violation as “one that could reasonably be expected to lead to a serious injury or illness”.

“If Snapco reopens, the company will be required to significantly reduce its violation frequency rate or face issuance of a notice of a pattern of violations,” MSHA noted.

“Such notice would result in MSHA issuing an order to withdraw miners from the affected area until the cited condition is corrected each time a significant and substantial violation is found at the mine.”

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