MSHA Issues Another Six-Figure Fine: $761,000

Six-figure penalties are becoming routine for the Mine Safety and Health Administration, which has to be satisfying for some members of Congress but annoying to major mining companies. MSHA on Friday said it has issued $761,000 in fines -- all of it was flagrant penalties, a new weapon for MSHA -- against Stillhouse Mining LLC for safety violations found during an inspection. Such fines have followed fatality investigations until now, but MSHA did not mention any injury or death at Mine No.1, located in Harlan County, Kentucky, that triggered its investigation.

"Mine operators that show reckless disregard for the well-being of their workers must be held accountable for their actions. It was highly likely that a miner would have been seriously injured if these conditions were allowed to persist, so the purpose of this enforcement action is to prevent accidents and injuries from occurring in the first place," Richard Stickler, MSHA's chief, said in Friday's news release.

The four citations against Stillhouse alleged that it failed to comply with main mine fan stoppage requirements; failed to comply with requirements for intentional changes in the ventilation system; failed to comply with the approved roof control plan; and failed to perform a pre-shift examination of the workplace before work began. Each of these carried a six-figure penalty, MSHA said.

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