HELP Report Criticizes Mine Operator, MSHA in Crandall Canyon Disaster

U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., issued a scathing report March 6 on the mining plan used by Murray Energy and approved by MSHA up to the time of the Crandall Canyon mine disaster on Aug. 6, 2007, in Utah. Six miners died in a powerful "bounce" -- a release of seismic energy -- and an MSHA inspector and two additional miners died in a second such event Aug. 16 during an attempted rescue.

Cecil Roberts, the United Mine Workers of America's international president, sid the report shows why the Supplemental MINER Act, known as S-MINER, should be passed by the U.S. Senate and enacted into law.

"The report says that the mining plan that led to the cave-in at the mine was flawed and should not have been submitted by the company nor approved by the Mine Safety and Health Administration, which echoes what the UMWA has said from the very outset of the investigation into the tragedy. Language in the S-MINER Act would strengthen MSHA's oversight regarding mining plans and provide extra accountability with respect to those who review and approve such plans," Roberts said. "The report also indicates that the mine's operator, Bob Murray, far overstepped his bounds before the tragedy occurred, and that MSHA did not take the proper action to stop him. Indeed, the report says that Murray 'bullied MSHA and got away with it.' The S-MINER Act contains language that clarifies and strengthens MSHA's role and responsibilities in emergency situations and in providing information to the families of miners who are caught in an emergency. The S-MINER Act also gives the agency more tools to use against operators who have a consistent pattern of violations of the law and regulations. We urge the HELP Committee to now take up the S-MINER Act as soon as possible and send it on to the full Senate. American coal miners are still dying just because they went to work. We need the enhanced protections the S-MINER Act provides. The terrible events at Crandall Canyon must never be forgotten and never be repeated."

Three leading Republican senators on the HELP Committee issued a statement saying they will wait for MSHA and the Department of Labor's inspector general to complete their reports on the Crandall Canyon disaster later this year. Sen. Mike Enzi of Wyoming, ranking member on the committee, and members Orrin Hatch of Utah and Johnny Isakson of Georgia said Congress should not rush to judgment based on incomplete and unofficial evidence.

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